Letter: What price freedom?

400-WHAT-PRICE-FREEDOMLetter: What price freedom?

Lance Thate
St Augustine, FL

On the day American citizens celebrated our nation’s 237th birthday, the day we declared our independence from the absolute despotism of the King of Great Britain, an employee of the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior of the United States, charged the former Chairman of the St Augustine Tea Party, David Heimbold, with engaging in an activity subject to a permit — without obtaining a permit; in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations.

His crime? In returning to his legally parked vehicle at 8:50 p.m., Heimbold walked along a public sidewalk that crosses from Castillo Drive to the terminus of Water Street; crossing the north lawn of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Hundreds of men, women, and children had placed down blankets, and sat in lawn chairs, on either side of that sidewalk; they were there to enjoy the evening’s public fireworks display.

But, because Heimbold was dressed in Colonial attire and carrying a sign identifying him as a member of the local Tea Party, 42-year-old Park Service Officer, Jill Renee Jaworski, determined that Heimbold must have first obtained a permit from National Park Service Superintendent Gordon J. Wilson.

Heimbold and other Tea Party members had been given permission from the owners to park their vehicles on private property adjacent to the north end of the fort property along Water Street. According to Tea Party sources, Jaworski was seen observing them unload their signs and flags, but did not approach.

In the course of the evening, the members engaged the public as they walked on sidewalks along the bayfront to the Plaza de la Constitution. As the fireworks display began, they made their way back in the direction of the Castillo de San Marcos. It was only after they were returning to their vehicles, and leaving for the evening, only thirty-feet from the Water Street gate, that Officer Jaworski demanded Heimbold’s identification and issued him a $225 federal citation.

The park grounds were covered with people who brought all kinds of signs and flags to celebrate Independence Day and the fireworks. They were not required to have a permit. Only a Tea Party member, David Heimbold, was singled out for not having a permit. This discrimination is clearly a violation of his Civil Rights.

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