Tea Party Continues Fight to Preserve Free Speech
Suppression of Free Speech by Government Employees A National Problem
The St. Augustine Tea Party (SATP) has a five year record of successfully defending the First Amendment rights of free speech and the right to assemble on public lands in St. Johns County, Florida. The general public is largely unaware that their First Amendment rights of free speech are severely curtailed by a concept known as “Designated Free-Speech Areas”, a.k.a. “Free Speech Zones”. Local, State and Federal Park officials eliminate free speech on public lands, under their management, without first obtaining their permission. So as not to appear to violate the First Amendment, a small postage stamp sized zone, or box, is created for free speech activity. These zones appear to be created for the convenience of government employees who manage the land. They are often located in out-of-the-way areas and are created as part of their Park regulations. When challenged, the officials often cite case law handed down by progressive judges. “Case law lives in the realm of the courts. Surrendering inalienable First Amendment rights over a questionable regulation in a court of law is something we are not going to do. This is a national problem and it occurs in every State of the Union,” Lance Thate, the SATP Chairman explained.
For the past several months, the Tea Party has challenged this concept of restricting free speech to little boxes in St. Johns County Parks. The Tea Party strategy has been one of willfully and deliberately refusing to enter a free speech zone. In addition, the Tea Party has put pressure on elected officials to eliminate the zones. On August 4, 2015 the County Commissioners unanimously voted to make Free Speech zones voluntary and to remove all designated Free-Speech Area signs from all of St. Johns County Parks.
The Bureaucracy Ignores Elected Public OfficialsThe St. Augustine Tea Party has information, from a reliable Democratic source, that a meeting on August 13, 2015 between Regina Ross, assistant County Attorney, Gabriel Pellicer, assistant general manager of the amphitheater, Chris Culpepper, the production manager at the amphitheatre and Caroline Wolf took place. Mrs. Wolf was advised by the Assistant County Attorney that free speech is not permited on the sidewalks that run through the markets at the amphitheater or the markets at the St. Augustine Beach Pier Park. “Our reporters were at the commission meeting when the change in policy was enacted. This appears to be misinformation,” David Heimbold SATP Media Chairman said. County Commissioner, Bill McClure, the person who made the motion to make free speech zones voluntary, was called for clarification, as was Jeb Smith, the Commissioner who seconded the motion. Both confirmed that Regina Ross was not expressing the unanimous Board decision. “The County Attorney’s office is once again practicing politics and not law,” the Tea Party Chairman, said.
Tea Party Goes to Farmer’s Market
Law Enforcement Confront Free-Speech Advocates
Considering the misinformation circulating, the SATP scheduled a visit to the Saturday “Farmer’s Market”, held on Amphitheater grounds in St. Augustine, Florida on August 22, 2015. Within five minutes, the Tea Party was confronted by Carey Del Ray, Manager of Old City Farmer’s Market, and they were informed that political and religious free-speech are not permitted at the “Farmers Market”. She attempted to direct them to the “Free-Speech Zone”. [See center picture in collage photo above] When the Tea Party refused to allow their First Amendment rights to be violated, Ms. Del Ray called the St. Augustine Police Department (SAPD). Police Officer Bough arrived to resolve the issue. To avoid blocking pedestrian traffic, the police officer and the Tea Party personnel stepped onto a side street. Ironically, the empty street fronted the free-speech zone.
Public Defends the Tea Party Presence
The officer explained that there have been complaints about blocking traffic, disrupting and upsetting the public. While the officer was citing the complaints about disrupting the public, numerous members of the public, seeing the confrontation between the Tea Party and the police, came up to support the Tea Party presence and effort. “God bless you and keep up the good work,” was the typical response. In addition, Officer Bough suggested that people objected to having their photos taken. “If people object to having their pictures taken in the public arena, they should stay home,” Pete Royal, a Tea Party member said. It was pointed out to the police officer that the cameras were part of media coverage. Media credentials were presented. The Tea Party and its Town Criers are photographed by the public hundreds of times, each time they make an appearance in the public. The Farmer’s Market was no exception. The public enjoys being associated with the Tea Party in photos.
The Tea Party also advised the Officer of the recent
County Commissioner’s policy change. At this point, the Tea
Party members asked, “Are we being retained?” The answer was,
“No.” At that point, the Tea Party disengaged from the officer.
No Tea Party member ever set foot in the Free-Speech Zone and
they continued their activities for another hour without
The SATP has engaged the public
hundreds of times over the past five years, most of it in areas
where the St. Augustine Police Department has jurisdiction. To
date, the SATP has never had an unpleasant experience with the
SAPD and today was no exception. The SATP thanks the SAPD for
its service to the community.
Amphitheater Management attempts First Amendment Violations
Today, the management team of the St. Augustine Amphitheater was represented by Carey Del Ray, Manager of Old City Farmer’s Market. “In a matter of minutes, Del Ray attacked every element of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. She announced that religion and politics are not permitted at the market. She went on to attack the media and its cameras. She did not recognize the Tea Party’s peaceful right of assembly. We don’t know, but I suspect she will not support our redress of grievances, regarding this issue, to the County Commissioners,” recalled Heimbold after being stopped and challenged on a public walk. Carey Del Ray’s only justification was, “I own this place”. This is a comment she made several times. The Tea Party members found such a foolish statement hard to accept. The Amphitheater property is owned by the State of Florida. Under an agreement with the State; St. Johns County administers the property at a loss to County taxpayers each year. At best, the Farmers Market is a tenant subject to the landlord’s rules. There seems to be a progressive loop involving the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, the Mayor of St. Augustine Beach, Andrea Samuels, St. Johns County Chairperson, Rachel Bennett, the County Attorney Patrick McCormack and his staff, the members of the Amphitheater Management team, Gabriel Pellicer, Chris Culpepper and various park administrators. “This elitist clique is determined to control public discourse. Since they carry the water for the progressive agenda, we know their allegiance is not with the people,” Heimbold, the SATP Media Chairman said. “Today, the Tea Party won because law enforcement refused to implement their progressive regulatory scheme.”
Speech Suppression is National in Scope
“Most Americans have never heard about “Dedicated
Free-Speech areas”. That is because they have never attempted
discourse in public areas. Take a flag and a sign into the park
near your home. I guarantee that soon you will be very politely
asked to step into a ‘free speech box’. Then you, too, will face
the rude awakening that our Tea Party did. Most of the public
landmass has restrictions on public discourse.
Our domestic enemies are at the gates. I pray to God that
Tea Parties across the country will cleanse their areas of this
viral progressive concept. If we lose our free-speech, liberty
will go down without even a whimper,” the St. Augustine Tea
Party Chairman declared.