Man Fought For Free Speech – City Officials Turned His Life Into A Living Hell
In this Florida town, speech is anything but free.
In the land of the free, freedom of speech has long been under attack and it is a bipartisan effort. Many of those complicit in the quelling of free speech are merely useful idiots and have no idea they are participating in one of the most effective forms of censorship humanity has ever seen.
All people have to do to silence anyone with whom they disagree is to now claim their speech offended them or that it’s misinformation and that person is banned or suspended from social media, or, in some extreme instances, face legal action.
Telling people what words they can and can’t say to ‘protect’ others is chilling and nothing short of tyrannical. Freedom of speech does not come with terms and conditions as words alone, less the obvious yelling “fire” in a movie theater, cannot cause physical harm — despite team woke declaring otherwise.
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If you need the state to ban or arrest people to protect you from the offensive or even outright false information they are spreading, you are a far greater threat than they are. If you support the state doing so, you’re a fascist. It is that simple.
Luckily, there are people who can see outside of this overt attempt to control what people can and cannot say and have taken action to call it out. TFTP spoke to one of these individuals who is currently being persecuted for nothing other than his speech. Andrew Sheets is an advocate for freedom and his activism has put a target on his back.
In June 2021, the city of Punta Gorda received backlash from constitutional advocates after they passed an ordinance banning language they consider “obscene.”
When reading the law, it is hard to interpret it any other way than a direct affront to free speech as it specifically outlaws anything “obscene” and then names the mediums it can be on like signs or flags.
The City’s new Sign Code prohibits outright any sign which contains obscene language or graphics. Section 11.4(a)(42), Punta Gorda Code defines the term “obscene” to mean “language or graphics that depict or describe sex or sexual organs in a manner appealing to, or intended to appeal to the average viewer/reader’s visceral sexual (prurient) interests, and taken as a whole, lacks any justification from a political, literary, artistic, or scientific value.”
Note, the definition of “sign” under the new Sign Code includes, “any device, structure, item, thing, object, fixture, painting, printed material, apparel and accoutrements, or visual image using words, graphics, symbols, numbers, or letters designed or used for the purpose of communicating a message or attracting attention.” As defined, flags are included in the definition of signs as are hats and other worn accessories.
In August 2021, Sheets, who runs Charlotte County Copwatch, along with YouTuber Richard Massey, were prosecuted under this code after practicing legal free speech. Sheets told TFTP that prosecutors attempted to fine him $10,000 but they managed to get it down to $2,500. What did Sheets’ sign say that was so “offensive” that prosecutors wanted to steal $10,000 from him? It said, “F**k Biden.”
The city decided to prosecute him under the portion of the code which bans graphics or language that “depict or describe sexual or excretory activities or organs in a manner that is offensive as measured by contemporary community standards.”
The idea that Sheets’ sign saying “F**k Biden” literally meant that he was advocating sexual intercourse with the President would be laughable if it wasn’t accompanied by such overzealous prosecution.
Aside from this citation being clearly asinine and targeted, it’s well-established by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.
In Cohen v. California, the U.S. Supreme court upheld a citizen’s First Amendment right to wear a jacket to court that read “F**k the Draft,” the court held:
“For, while the particular four-letter word being litigated here is perhaps more distasteful than most others of its genre, it is nevertheless often true that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric. Indeed, we think it is largely because governmental officials cannot make principled distinctions in this area that the Constitution leaves matters of taste and style so largely to the individual.”
“(The use of language) is very important and that’s why these men are out holding these signs because they have issues with the constitutionality of this ordinance,” attorney Phares Heindl, who represents both men said. “There are plenty of commonly used (phrases) with ‘F—’ that don’t have any sexual connotation like ‘F- — off,’ ‘What the f—, ‘F—ing idiot.’
“You don’t think when using those words people are trying to get out a description of sex.”
Nevertheless, this arrest was not enough to deter him and six months later, Sheets was at it again. This time, he used a laser sign to spell the words F-Biden, F-Trump, F-police on the outside wall of the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center in downtown Punta Gorda, according to the Punta Gorda Sun.
Again, the city came after him. Sheets was fined for his freedom of speech and a lien was placed on his home after he refused to pay the fines, citing an appeal. He was also arrested for disturbing the peace.
Now, Sheets is suing for damages and to get the city’s tyrannical anti-free speech ordinance revoked.
“This case made national news,” Sheets said. “An article was written by Rutherford Institute about turning free speech into sedition.
“I’m not the one who acted inappropriately,” he said. “They put a lien against my home. Taxpayers are paying hundreds of dollars to outside attorneys (for the city’s code board) after the city violated my rights.”
“Instead of just fining me or putting another lien against my house, they arrested me,” he said. “So when are they going to drop the criminal charges against me? Either way, I’m going to sue again because I spent 30 days in jail and they were the ones who violated my rights.”
Likely knowing they will lose their case in court, the city has agreed to move toward a settlement with Sheets, though the terms of that settlement are unclear. One thing is certain, however, and that is that more people need to challenge these unconstitutional ordinances. As long as no one pushes back, they will continue. Remember that freedom wins when good people choose to break bad laws.
Article posted with permission from Matt Agorist