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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Display of Gadsden Flag Quashed by Ocala, Florida, Authorities

Display of Gadsden Flag Quashed by Ocala, Florida, Authorities

Written by  Bob Adelmann

When Keith Greenberg, the owner of a sporting goods store named the Gear Barrel, moved to Florida from Chicago in May, he said it was because he felt his rights were being “stomped on” in Illinois and preferred living and working in “freedom-loving Florida.” One of the first freedoms he decided to exercise was his First Amendment right to advertise his patriotism by hanging the Gadsden flag — a yellow banner with a picture of a rattlesnake and the words "Don't Tread on Me" — in front of his store. In August, he received a letter from the city claiming that the flag violated the city code and that he had to remove it or be faced with fines of up to $500 a day.

He couldn’t believe it:

This is a shock. Honestly, I feel like this is Russia. I’ve been around the world…. This is what you expect in really closed countries where there is no freedom of expression. Not here — so it’s shocking.

The first thing he did was put up a YouTube video of his flag hanging in front of his store and explaining his predicament. He felt his rights were being violated but said he couldn’t afford the potential fines as a brand-new business owner. So the second thing he did was take down the flag and call John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, for help. Greenberg explained: “This issue for me is a First Amendment issue. It’s freedom of speech, freedom of expression.”

Whitehead agreed: “What we’re seeing is the criminalization of free speech, manifested in incidents where the government attempts to censor speech that is controversial, politically incorrect or unpopular. Under the First Amendment, the government has no authority to pick and choose what type of speech it approves.”

Whitehead wrote a letter on institute stationery to Jason Kilcrease, the city’s code enforcement officer, explaining that Greenberg had contacted him and asked for his help. He said that Greenberg was told that he would be permitted to fly a flag in front of his business establishment only if it was the flag of the United States. He added:

The demand that the Greenbergs remove the flag and the ordinances upon which the demand is based are patently in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and must be withdrawn forthwith…. These provisions constitute a content-based restriction on speech and are unconstitutional.…

Because the notice and threat to prosecute infringe on the Greenberg’s First Amendment rights, it is imperative that these actions be renounced immediately and assurances provided that they will not be cited again for displaying their flag. Finish reading>>