Crime

Florida Man Arrested After Playing National Anthem On July 4

| by Nathaly Pesantez

A 22-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida, was arrested on the fourth of July after playing the Star Spangled Banner on a sidewalk in Neptune Beach.

Lane Pittman was playing his guitar on the street in front of his friend’s house when a sergeant from the Neptune Beach Police Department told him he’d be sent to jail if he didn’t move, according to WJXT.

Pittman claims that he asked if he could play on the sidewalk instead, and the officer said he could.

In a video uploaded to YouTube on June 5, a large crowd is seen gathering to hear Pittman and cheer him on as he strums out the national anthem on his electric guitar. It has already been viewed over 8,500 times. 

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“I don’t think I ever played that song as good in my life as I did on that day,” Pittman told WJXT. “It felt right. It was an emotional roller coaster.”

Towards the end of the video, once Pittman finished playing, several police officers can be seen approaching him. Pittman and the officers seem to be at the beginning of a calm encounter by the time the video ends, but Pittman said what happened next was completely unexpected. 

“He goes, ‘Spread your legs. Put your hands behind your back,’ and that was when I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Is he serious?” Pittman said. “I’m getting arrested for this after I was told I could do it?”

But Neptune Beach Police Chief David Sembach has a different account of events.

“He was told he was going to have to stop playing. He went to the sidewalk and continued playing, and it was only after that that the crowd was getting hostile, so the only way to stop it, since he wasn’t going to stop playing, was to take him out of the location,” Sembach said. 

“The whole thing was not on YouTube, and as I said, he was told the first time, ‘You could not play. It was causing a disturbance,’” Sembach added. 

Pittman claims that the officers ignored him as he tried to explain what the other officer had said earlier, and that he was not read his rights, nor informed of the reason for his arrest at the time. 

The police charged Pittman with breach of peace, a misdemeanor. He was ordered to appear in court, which is a written arrest.

Pittman’s lawyer, Caleb Rowland, is equally as surprised over the arrest. 

“I’ve never seen a law that says you can’t play the national anthem on a sidewalk,” Rowland said. 

The state attorney’s decision on the matter will determine Pittman’s outcome in the ordeal, but until then Rowland is confident Pittman will be left with no charges. 

Neptune Beach increased their police patrols for the July 4 festivities, according to WJAX. An additional $5,000 was budgeted for the increase by the city. 

Sources: WJXT, WJAX, “July 4th, 2015” video
Photo Credit: Screenshot from “July 4th, 2015” video via WJXT