Castillo management expands free speech zones

300-DAVE-HEIMBOLD-SATPChief Park Ranger Kimberly Mayo informed local Historic City News reporters that on Friday, the National Park Service has voided the citation issued to Saint Augustine tea Party member David Heimbold; and, no further charges relating to the incident that occurred on July 4, 2013 will be pursued.

The circumstances surrounding the incident, that were reported in Historic City News the following day, have opened a dialog at the park concerning the status of those areas set aside for public demonstrations of 25 persons or less within the boundaries of the Monument.

“The Castillo de San Marcos has re-evaluated its First Amendment-designated areas, examined past demonstrations that have taken place outside these areas, and the impact these events have had on park resources and operations,” Mayo told Historic City News. “Based on this review, it has been determined that the 25 or fewer person area may be expanded without negatively impacting either park resources or park operations.”

Although the local printed newspaper gave no coverage to the July 4th violation notice issued to Heimbold for demonstrating without a permit outside the area designated for that activity; the Historic City News article, another Internet article published on Examiner, the Saint Augustine Tea Party website, and then aired on Action News, a Jacksonville television station, was credited for moving management to revisit the issue of First Amendment rights in the public domain.

The only local editorial published in the Sunday issue of the St Augustine Record, two days after the citation had been voided, was titled “Our view: Laughing into the face of the local Tea Party”. Heimbold told Historic City News editor Michael Gold that he never expected The Record to be a voice for positive change — but said he is disappointed that they would use the publication to beat down those local residents who are demonstrating, through peaceful means, the importance of public opinion.

“While the citation that gave rise to the media interest was determined to be sufficient under the regulation as currently written, the decision to void the citation was made based on a pending update of regulations governing demonstrations at Castillo de San Marcos,” Chief Park Ranger Mayo wrote.

Mayo explained to reporters that this expansion is aimed at preserving the First Amendment rights of individuals, and small groups, who choose to exercise those rights in the park — while balancing the regulatory obligations of the National Park Service to protect resources and provide an appropriate visitor experience consistent with the fundamental values of the National Monument.

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