|On October 16, three local pro-life activists, Winnifred Bell, Allura Lightfoot and Deanna Waller filed suit in federal court to overturn Winter Park’s recently adopted anti-protest ordinance. Judge Roy Dalton, Jr. denied the plaintiffs’ Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, but will consider granting a Preliminary Injunction to stop enforcement of the ordinance pending a final judgment in the case. Click here to see court document.
In September, prior to the final vote on the ordinance, protest supporters threatened to sue and “bankrupt” the city if Commissioners approved the ordinance. The activists’ lawsuit names the City of Winter Park, Florida, City Council, Steven Leary, Carolyn Cooper, Tom McMacken, Sarah Sprinkel and Police Chief Brett C. Railey as defendants. Mayor Bradley was not named in the suit. He was the only member of the City Commission to vote against the ordinance.
Jay Rogers, a pro-life organizer of the protest on Aloma Avenue, recently commented in his blog on challenging the ordinance:
“. . . the only way 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.
“. . . Due to Roe v. Wade, we in the pro-life movement feel that our hands are tied as to what we can hope to accomplish legislatively (beyond some limited measures restricting the “how” of abortion, but not the ability to abort an unborn child). Now with these buffer zone injunctions, we feel that a noose has been placed around our necks and it is slowly being tightened. It is vital that we resist . . .”
In the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of protest restrictions in the Frisby v. Schultz case — the basis for Winter Park’s anti-protest ordinance — Justice Sandra Day O’Connor addresses the rationale for restricting protest in a residential setting:
“The First Amendment permits the government to prohibit offensive speech as intrusive when the “captive” audience cannot avoid the objectionable speech . . . The resident is figuratively, and perhaps literally, trapped within the home, and, because of the unique and subtle impact of such picketing, is left with no ready means of avoiding the unwanted speech . . . Thus, the “evil” of targeted residential picketing, “the very presence of an unwelcome visitor at the home,” Carey, supra, at 478 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting), is “created by the medium of expression itself.”
In the following video clip of the October 22 Commission meeting, City Attorney Larry Brown gives details of the lawsuit and assures the Commissioners that even though most of them have been named personally in the lawsuit, they have no personal liability in the case. Judge Dalton is requiring an initial response from the city by November 7. The first hearing of the case will be December 4, 2012.