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Winter Park, Florida Imposes Unconstitutional Free Speech Ban

WINTER PARK, Florida (www.forerunner.com) – The usually dyed-in-the-wool liberal newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, posted an interesting opinion piece today. “Anyone who says city government never listens hasn’t looked to Winter Park lately,” the article begins.

The Orlando Sentinel goes on to express concern that a hysterical screed by Jenna Tosh, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando, has resulted in an attempt to create an unconstitutional “buffer zone,” thus curtailing free speech throughout residential areas in the entire city of Winter Park, Florida.

Indeed, Jenna Tosh deserves an academy award for her acting job this past month. She was able to take what is a frequent activity of Florida pro-life activists in the past 30 years – awareness campaigns in the neighborhoods of abortionists and abortion center workers – and overstate her “plight” to the extent that the free speech of everyone in the city of Winter Park, Florida could be restricted if a proposed ordinance passes.

Free speech suffers with Winter Park protest ban

“What We Think,” The Orando Sentinel, September 16, 2012

On August 18, some 20 people assembled outside Jenna Tosh’s Winter Park home to protest abortion. Tosh, you see, is CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando.

The demonstration left Tosh frightened. A few days later, according to an account in the Winter Park Observer, she told city commissioners that protesters made her feel “threatened and ambushed.”

To the rescue jumped the commission. That same evening, commissioners passed a 60-day emergency ban on residential picketing aimed at a specific home.

Last week, commissioners approved in a 4-1 vote an ordinance that would make the ban permanent. Mayor Ken Bradley was the only opposing vote.

“It is essential to the harmony, peace and tranquillity [sic] of persons residing in residential dwelling units in the City of Winter Park that they feel free in their own homes, and from protests and picketing activity that targets them or that is directed at them because the persons picketing have assumed that the residents are a member of a group or a type being targeted.”

We might have been inclined give city officials a hearty attaboy for being so responsive to a resident — had commissioners not managed in the process to abridge everyone else’s free-speech rights.

Winter Park modeled its measure after ordinances that passed constitutional muster, so we aren’t arguing legal merits.

But we do question the knee-jerk response to a single citizen’s complaint — precipitated by the distribution of pro-life handouts and, nearly a week later, some nonviolent picketing. And we question the need for a new law when laws exist to protect citizens against protests that grow unruly.

Read more …

Just when I thought the liberal lame-stream media wasn’t paying any attention to pro-life advocates! You see, it’s a conundrum for them. If the civil government can ban free speech, then freedom of the press is next. That scares them.

And it should.

These anti-free speech ordinances directed at pro-life activities are bound to be challenged by anyone who could be indirectly affected. That is, anyone could suffer when these “no-free-speech buffer zones” become overly broad and “fair.” Then the resulting legal challenges always make for strange bedfellows.

As one who dealt for a number of years with a no-free-speech buffer zone in my front yard that made it all the way to the Supreme Court, it’s deja vu all over again.

(Just as a brief aside to explain what I mean by this, my mailbox was in the infamous “36-foot buffer zone.” Graham Dugas, who was also a resident at the house at the time, was arrested and jailed on a buffer zone injunction violation charge while going to mail a letter in his own mailbox — this mailbox. Graham was aquitted of the charges. Graham then sued the City of Melbourne for false arrest and collected a settlement amount of $3,199.)

Here is the 40-minute discussion by the Winter Park Commission on their attempt to restrict first amendment rights with an “emergency ban” on neighborhood pickets. This was from the first discussion of the ordinance on August 27, 2012. The following audio includes some interesting fabrications voiced by Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Jenna Tosh about a pro-life awareness campaign in her neighborhood.

Audio from the Winter Park City Commission, August 27, 2012, regarding the city-wide “no-free-speech” buffer zone in residential neighborhoods.

Here is the video and a previous article covering the awareness campaign that prompted the adoption of a city-wide “no-free-speech” buffer zone in residential areas in the City of Winter Park.

Although Winter Park City Commissioner and attorney Larry Brown’s ordinance contained references to the “Occupy” movement, the ban is directed at a one-time demonstration by pro-life evangelists spread out over several hundred feet along Aloma Avenue on August 18, 2012.

The ordinance was proposed at the instigation of Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel who is a member of the First Congregationalist Church of Winter Park with Jenna Tosh. Not incidently, the United Church of Christ denomination, of which the church is a part, has supported Planned Parenthood since Margaret Sanger’s days and has supported abortion on demand since Roe v. Wade.

The no-free-speech ordinance was then voted on as an “emergency” measure prior to a public hearing. None of the pro-life community, who are the thinly veiled targets of the ordinance, were at first made aware of emergency measure. However, several were able to appear at the first announced public hearing.

Nevertheless, I want to thank the City of Winter Park for allowing a public forum for citizens to be able to speak on this issue. In my allowance of three minutes at the public hearing on September 10th, 2012, I expressed concern that although a 1988 Supreme Court precedent, Frisby v. Schultz, upheld a Brookfield, Wisconsin ordinance banning protests targeting a particular resident, the Winter Park ordinance is overly broad and goes far beyond the legal parameters handed down in Frisby, which still allows citizens to picket and march in neighborhoods.

At the conclusion of the Winter Park Commission meeting on September 10th, I talked to Commissioner Larry Brown for about 15 minutes and he was gracious in taking some time to explain the ordinance to me. It was his contention that the ordinance only applies to a narrow definition of “picketing.” Still I was left with more questions than answers as to what the ordinance means.

However, after having spoken to several first amendment rights attorneys about this matter, it is clear that the ordinance is much broader than Frisby. The consensus of those we have counseled with is that the ordinance takes the example several past court decisions that restrict free speech in public right of ways, which would disturb the peace and tranquility of a singular private residence, and then “tightens the noose” to apply to the residential zone of an entire city.

Of course, the only way to know if this is true and to know how the ordinance will be enforced by the city police would be to challenge it in court. Such court challenges are certainly coming, not only from Florida pro-life activists, but possibly from many other legal advocacy groups around the country who are concerned with free speech issues. Before this is all over, I expect the ordinance to be culled back to the parameters of Frisby. I also expect it to cost the City of Winter Park Florida tens of thousands of dollars to defend in court.

This is a crying shame because the parameters of Frisby did not even apply to most of the 28 demonstrators lined up along Aloma Avenue on August 18, 2012. Most were standing at least 50 feet away from the Tosh residence. Others who were in that zone, moved through the area in front of her house occasionally. The entire street was targeted, not simply one residence. No one blocked foot traffic. No one impeded vehicular traffic. No one violated noise ordinances. The Tosh family did not need to “literally push” protesters out of the way, but they were given a path to their home. No one threatened them. In fact, I witnessed Jenna Tosh use abusive profanity directed at the awareness campaign demonstrators.

When the police showed up in response, one of the officers told us that the complaints said that we playing loud music. Yet he said that he heard none. The complaints said that we were yelling at cars passing. Yet he heard only cars yelling at us. The complaints said that we were blocking the road and sidewalk. Yet he saw that when people walked by us, we moved immediately to give them more room.

Let’s make this much clear. This was a peaceful, prayerful public awareness campaign similar to those that have been conducted in other parts of central Florida in recent months. In fact, Orange County, which has a _Frisby_-complaint ordinance banning public demonstrations that target a specific residence, has encountered the same type of awareness campaigns and has not seen fit to arrest those involved.

Some personal objections

There was also a hypocritical bias shown toward some of the demonstrators who were present in the room during the last public hearing. I personally object to Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley calling the awareness campaign “heinous,” and “dirty.” I object to the fact that it was also entered in to public record that we staged a “targeted attack” on a family and that Jenna Tosh was “ambushed.” In reality, no such thing occurred. This is an overstatement at best. These are words intended to propagandize the need for an unconstitutional ban on free speech.

While I appreciate Mayor Bradley’s stand for the first amendment, he showed that the City Commission did not properly investigate the nature of the awareness campaign.

Further, if the self-proclaimed “pro-life” members of the City Commission truly believe that showing posters of aborted babies in a public area is “heinous” and dirty,” it begs the question: Which is the most “heinous” and “dirty” of the following:

  1. Is it heinous that unborn children are being killed and dismembered through Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando’s license to do abortion through the end of the second trimester?
  2. Is it heinous that according to the Guttmacher Institute, which is Planned Parenthood’s research arm, a significant number of women who have an abortion due to an unwanted pregnancy, suffer physical and emotional trauma?
  3. Is it heinous that Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando takes in over $1 million a year in income for surgical abortion procedures alone, which is according to their public record 990 non-profit tax forms?
  4. Is it heinous that the past CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando, Sue Idtensohn, consistently made between $80,000 to $90,000 a year in her position in an organization that is funded in part by public donations and through federal assistance and yet takes in about one-third of their income from abortion?
  5. Is it heinous that two Florida abortion doctors have been paid over $100,000 a year for a one-day-a-week job aborting innocent preborn persons who were created in the image of God.
  6. Is it heinous that solely because of the controversy that is now swirling over this ordinance in the City of Winter Park, more local residents will be alerted to who Jenna Tosh is, what she does for a living, and where she lives?
  7. Or lastly, is it most heinous that 28 central Florida pro-life activists did a one-time campaign to alert a Winter Park neighborhood to the issue of abortion with disturbing images and to implore her pro-life Christian neighbors to apply social pressure and even pray for Jenna Tosh’s repentance and conversion to Christ?

Make no mistake about it. There is no peace and tranquility with child killing. This is according to God’s law, to which all people will ultimately be held accountable.

No peace, no tranquility with child killing! A city ordinance providing for a “no-free-speech” buffer zone in residential neighborhoods cannot change that.

An Illlustration from History

The following is excerpted from an article posted on ProlifeFlorida.com, a now defunct website.

During the pre-revolutionary days in Massachusetts, it was standard fare for hundreds of colonists to surround a British commanders home at night, dressed sometimes in masks, and demand that the commander come out and sign a denouncement of his in-office duties previously committed. Imagine being in your home in 1770, your small children getting ready for bed, and you hear a knock on the door. Looking out your window, you see hundreds of small torches, farmer’s pitchforks, and several Boston citizens on your front porch. Your “backup” (the King’s army) is nowhere to be seen. It was common for these British commanders to agree with all the colonists demands (who wouldn’t?) only to retreat from the next day in office. Some of the commanders were threatened, some were tarred and feathered, some beaten. But most received this “welcoming committee” when they went afoul of the King’s charter.

So while I don’t in any way support a return to this ideals, I have to sometimes laugh when I hear abortionists whine about being “harassed.” They hardly know the meaning of the word. A few peaceful people picketing in front of your home during the day once a month for an hour or two as police officers sit nearby is hardly harassment.

Winter Park City Commission Minutes from August 27, 2012 regarding the city-wide “no-free-speech” buffer zone in residential neighborhoods.

Motion made by Commissioner McMacken to adopt the resolution; seconded by Commissioner Cooper.

No public comments were made.

Upon a roll call vote, Mayor Bradley and Commissioners Leary, Sprinkel, Cooper and McMacken voted yes. The motion carried unanimously with a 5-0 vote.


Attorney Brown explained the Charter provision that allows an adoption of an emergency ordinance if there is a public emergency affecting life, health, property or public peace and that it requires four votes. He clarified that this ordinance is automatically repealed 61 days after its adoption and that the ordinance can be enacted through regular procedures as a regular ordinance in that 60 day period. He explained that they can amend the ordinance this evening and that it will be effective immediately if four votes support any changes to the ordinance. Attorney Brown read the title of the ordinance.

Attorney Brown answered questions pertaining to picketing versus protests. He spoke about this type of ordinance is likely to be challenged which is why he wrote this with very exhausted findings where he cited extensively from the Supreme Court cases that to a degree recognized the importance of tranquility in one’s home. Attorney Brown further explained specific portions of the ordinance, including the 50’ buffer. He concluded that there is enough constitutional support and/or legal support for them to take this action this evening. Further questions were answered by Attorney Brown pertaining to the placement of no loitering signs.

Commissioner Sprinkel addressed her request to adopt the emergency ordinance because of concerns with what happened in their neighborhood and that this is important enough to enact immediately. City Manager Knight stated other Commissioners as well as many citizens also contacted him. Mayor Bradley asked why they would not wait two weeks to put this on the agenda. It was explained that the individual has in fear. Mr. Knight compared this to a moratorium that the Commission adopts on a temporary basis until they can do the formal action to make it permanent. He explained that the public notice will take place, two public hearings will take place and if adopted, will become a permanent ordinance and that the emergency ordinance protects all City residents immediately from being subjected to this type of action in front of their residences during the four weeks it would take to adopt a formal ordinance. The City of Orlando ordinance in place was discussed. It was clarified that the Commission can repeal the emergency ordinance at the next meeting if they choose to, or they can amend or modify or not adopt a permanent ordinance and let this one die. Commissioner Leary addressed the importance of adopting the ordinance.

Motion by Commissioner McMacken to adopt the emergency ordinance; seconded by Commissioner Sprinkel.

Jenna Tosh, 1470 Aloma Avenue, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando, stated she was threatened and ambushed last week by 30 anti­ abortion protesters on the sidewalk leading to their home. She stated she had to push through these people with her 3 year old son who were carrying massive anti­ abortion signs and other signs targeted against her specifically. She stated this is not an ordinance about abortion rights or about women’s rights or women’s health because everyone is entitled to their own diverse points of view on these issues but is an ordinance that will not only protect her family but any number of Winter Park residents who may in their professional lives take positions that are deemed controversial. She stated she is entitled to peace and tranquility at her home and that her son is entitled to not feel afraid in his own home. She thanked the Commission for acting so quickly and urged them to adopt the ordinance and to move forward with the adoption of a permanent ordinance.

Attorney Brown provided the Deputy City Clerk a summary of state/local residential picketing laws which the City may rely upon as precedent from around the country/ an ordinance concerning use of public rights-of-way in the City of Noblesville, an article regarding intimidation of a banker in his home, an email that recites the City of Orlando ordinance, and an email between the Chief of Police and the City Manager concerning further information on the specific incident that Ms. Tosh was dealing with as well as photographs of the protest and an article from Marketplace.org concerning intimidation on their homes.

Mayor Bradley stated he is fully supportive of what has been presented and is also very interested in any litigation or cases from municipalities that says you have free speech but only within a certain area. Attorney Brown provided examples. Other questions were asked for clarity purposes and responded to by Attorney Brown. Mayor Bradley stated he wanted the record to show that he is totally against anyone going in front of someone’s house and threatening them in any way; that is not in the spirit of Winter Park. He wanted to ensure this is fully thought through before taking this action. Attorney Brown asked for guidance concerning the 50’ buffer. Further discussion ensued regarding the 50’ buffer and the areas that this would be in effect.

Upon a roll call vote, Mayor Bradley and Commissioners Leary, Sprinkel, Cooper and McMacken voted yes. The motion unanimously carried with a 5-0 vote.

Your comments are welcome!

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