There was an article in the local paper (Pensacola News Journal, April 11) about the ‘sign holders.’ You’ve probably seen them in your city too. It was more a human interest story than anything political or requiring police action. It was exactly like the writer, syndicated columnist Mark O’Brien said, an example of making lemonade out of lemons in these tough economic times.
But later in the week, the light-hearted piece took a dark turn for the one-man entrepreneurs. On his blog, O’Brien wrote . . .
As a result of the article, City Hall got complaints and the men were told to get off the sidewalks.
According to Police Chief Chip Simmons, ‘complaints’ were received at the Police Department that a city ordinance was in violation and the men were told to leave. The violation was for ‘doing business on city property.’
Which begs the question, when does freedom of speech end and business begin? These guys were not doing business. They were holding signs. Prostitutes do business on the sidewalks.
O’Brien notes the inconsistency in enforcement. Long live the ‘going out of business’ sign holders, and the furniture company and ‘buy your gold’ sign holders, and the ‘homeless, please help’ sign holders. And the ‘buy my pizza,’ ‘file your tax return,’ and ‘save the ta-ta’s car wash’ cartoon characters and sign holders.
So the City of Pensacola decides to dump on those that can least afford it. Just where is the ACLU when you need them?