Occupy Tampa member arrested for writing in chalk on sidewalk challenges the charges listen11/20/12 Lisa Kauffman
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In May an Occupy Tampa member was arrested for writing in chalk on the sidewalk outside the Bank of America building in downtown. Nathan Schwartz had a pretrial hearing at the Hillsborough County Courthouse Monday afternoon.
Schwartz is challenging his arrest because he thinks chalking is just exercising First Amendment rights.
“There was the clean zone ordinance that was getting passed, the event zone ordinance that got passed by city council, a little bit before the RNC, and a lot of us felt that was very anti protest, a very anti protest law, it limited certain things we could have, insinuated we were violent off the bat, and we basically drew at the corporate Bank of America building over there, on the sidewalk of Kennedy and Ashley, we drew arrows pointing to city council for the city council meeting talking about that issue that day.”
Schwartz was charged with two misdemeanors- trespassing and criminal mischief. About a dozen members of Occupy Tampa stood in solidarity with Schwartz at his hearing.
“People coming out to support this particular court case can show support for, generally, civil liberties as a whole.”
Other jurisdictions have upheld First Amendment rights to include chalking.
“Tim Osmar versus the City of Orlando, just down the road, he won his case, his 1st Amendment sidewalk chalk case because its federally protected free speech and it doesn’t cause damage.”
Occupier Tristan Lear believes the officer’s reasoning for arrest is unjust.
“The police officers don’t like being questioned about, you know, their authority or about what’s going on. The police officer had to save face so he put him in handcuffs and now they’re trying to figure out how justify it after the fact.”
During yesterday’s pretrial Schwartz’s lawyer requested the state to provide evidence of the chalking, or in the police officer’s words, “graffiti.”
“My lawyer still hasn’t gotten the evidence from the state, they still haven’t sent it to him, preferably the judge pushes for that to happen, because I don’t feel ready to go to trial unless I see there’s footage and pictures, and I want to see that and I haven’t been able to see that, and it’s been months. This happened in May.”
Schwartz’s trial will be December third; there may be more pre-trial hearings before that. The maximum sentence for the charges is two years in jail.