Sunshine Law citizen activist arrested in St Johns County

Historic City News was informed that Jeffrey Marcus Gray has been arrested. The 46-year-old St Augustine man has been in the spotlight recently because of conflicts he sees between a citizen’s right to access public records and the St Johns County School District’s obligation to protect the security of employees and students on school campuses.

Gray, who resides at 1904 River Lagoon Trace in St Augustine, was arrested outside St Augustine High School where he was holding a sign protesting the SLAPP lawsuit filed against him by St. Johns Schools last December. The legal action was filed along with 38 SLAPP letters sent to his home address by certified mail, one of which invoked Florida Statute 810.0975 and its 500-foot “school safety zones”.

“If you would, put your sign down, turn your phone off, put your hands behind your back, and turn around please. Put your hands together like you’re praying, please,” a plain-clothes deputy driving a marked St Johns County patrol car instructed Gray, while another deputy, driving a marked patrol SUV, videotaped the encounter.

Although Gray submitted to detainment, he told the arresting deputy, “I am peacefully assembling and peacefully protesting”.

“Okay. Do you realize that this is a violation of your no trespass order?” asked the deputy.

“No, it’s not actually,” Gray responded. “There’s a provision that says the order shall not infringe on the right to peacefully assemble and protest. If you look in the statute, its right there.”

The last sentence of the “School Safety Zones” statute reads: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to abridge or infringe upon the right of any person to peaceably assemble and protest.”

Nonetheless, the deputy sheriff was not inclined to consider Gray’s explanation of the peaceful assembly or peaceful protest provision of Florida law. “This is within the 500 foot safety rule, so I’m putting you under arrest for violation of that trespass order,” he concluded.

Gray has a son currently attending St Augustine High School and two other children enrolled in the St Johns County School District.

He is well known to law enforcement in northeast Florida because of his “Photography is not a Crime” website, and a You Tube channel “Honor your Oath” focused on examples he says illustrate how law enforcement officers and officials in local government agencies either do not understand or are not concerned with compliance with Florida’s government in the sunshine laws.

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