Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

Miami city commision stifles freedom of speech

      Back in November of 2003, the Miami City Commission passed a law which prohibited protestors from carrying items such as water pistols, balloons, bottles and sticks.  The law also required a permit for public gatherings of seven or more people should that gathering last longer than thirty minutes.  Although opponents of the law charged that the only purpose for the law was to stifle lawful protests and dissent at November’s Free Trade Area of America’s meeting (FTAA), police and city officials denied that that was the case. 

    Now, approximately five months after the passage of the law and months after the FTAA meetings in Miami, city commissioners voted to repeal the law on the grounds that the restrictions could affect the ability of city residents from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and other countries in protesting matters of their concern.  The timing of the passage and then the repealing of the law shows a disgusting contempt for the First Amendment by the Miami City Commission.

    At the time of its passage city and police officials denied that this law was passed with the FTAA meetings and subsequent protestors in mind.  Yet, during its repeal, Commissioner Regallado who originally proposed the law, indicated that the law was designed because of “unique circumstances” of the FTAA meetings.

    It was bad enough, that a law was passed with its sole design to stifle freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association all guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, but its repeal is even worse.  The repeal is not worse because, in fact, the law was repealed, no that is a good idea.  What is the worse part of the repeal, was the blatant acknowledgment by city officials that the purpose of the law was to stifle the speech of FTAA protesters but they did not want it to spill over to protestors whose ideas obviously they approve of or do not want to stifle.

    The essence of the First Amendment, is freedom of speech to all.  The essence of lack of freedom of speech and First Amendment rights is when speech may only be had by those of who are in favor of the government or who speech the government favors.  By the passage of this law and its repeal, the City of Miami acknowledged that is exactly what they were doing.  They did not want, did not like the FTAA protesters’ speech and therefore passed a law to prevent it.  They approve of Venezuelan, Cuban, Haitians and other protestors and therefore have repealed the law to allow them to speak. 

    There are many throughout this country who believe that Miami-Dade County and Miami have somehow left the United States and become part of Latin America.  There are others who have called Miami-Dade County and Miami nothing more than a banana republic.  Apparently, the City of Miami must like those credentials, because actions such as passing a law and then immediately repealing it after the FTAA is over, is something that we would expect from a banana republic, from a country that does not have over 200 years of deep rooted freedom of speech, and certainly not from a part of the country that prides itself in telling the world about our freedoms including freedom of speech and the First Amendment. 

    On another note, in 1996, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed an Ordinance that required doors to be off booths in adult bookstore viewing booths.  The law was challenged by several adult bookstores in Federal Court.  Unfortunately,  United States District Court Judge King ruled the law to be constitutional and since that time doors have been off booths in Miami-Dade county.

    However, since Judge King’s ruling the law has changed throughout the country and especially in the Eleventh Circuit, which Florida is part of.   In order for the law to be constitutional it must further a substantial government interest and the government now must have true studies and evidence that shows the substantial government interest of that legislation.

    Because of the change in the law, or at least the change in how the law is applied or to be analyzed, three adult bookstores in Miami-Dade County represented by Daniel Aaronson and Luke Lirot have filed suit once again challenging the constitutionality of the doors off provision along with other provisions of the Miami-Dade Code.  The lawsuit challenges that in fact the doors off provision was not passed based upon a substantial government interest nor was the county able to show that doors on adult viewing booths did in fact cause adverse secondary effects. 

    As the litigation goes further, we will inform you of what is going on.  As always, should you have any First Amendment news or adult entertainment news that you would like us to pass on, please contact us and we will be happy to share it with all of the readers.

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