Three of four litigants in a lawsuit filed against the City of St Augustine in federal court in June 2015, told Historic City News that they are pleased so many local artists turned out today during a protest held to raise awareness of what they claim is an unconstitutional intrusion on their First Amendment right of free expression.
The three, Bruce Kevin Bates, a visual character artist; Elena Hecht, a photographer; and Helena Sala, a folk artist, quilter and sculptor; say they have been here before. Bates, Hecht, and Kate Merrick, who was out of town for the holidays, were original plaintiffs against the City of St Augustine in March 2009 over substantially the same issue. The fourth original litigant, Richard Childs, was a retired art teacher and is a sculptor and painter. Sala replaced Childs as the fourth artist in the latest litigation.
“Of the twenty-five or thirty participants, a dozen or so came from locations around the state as far away as Melbourne and Gainesville,” Angel Jones told local HCN reporters. “I support these artists and I am here to stay until they are allowed to express themselves without fear of being arrested or fined.”
One reporter who was writing for a Gainesville area publication told our Editor, Michael Gold, that she came prepared in case she was arrested as part of the demonstration. No contact was made by law enforcement officers at the scene of the protest.
St Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver, who is limited in how much she can discuss this matter since it is currently before the court, did stop by and speak with a number of the protesters, who she says were polite and cordial despite their differences with the City.
The city addresses artists — sculptors, painters, photographers, those who work with various media like beads, or glass, in the same ordinance with “street performers” — like mimes, costumed reenactors, guitar or musical instrument performers, troubadours and wandering minstrels.
The artists say what they do is decidedly different and they enjoy constitutional protection, whether others who have been administratively lumped in with them do or not. The City maintains two maps that are the guide as to where people are prohibited from creating art. The second group mapped includes vendors who merely purchase merchandise for resale.