Arrested for Free Speech in Utah


On June 12th 2010 I attended the "Art City Days" parade in my home town of Springville Utah.

Springville is not where I currently live, but it is where I grew up and went to school, I would later go on to open my first business and then my second business on Main Street of this little town.

I skateboarded around Springville when I was a kid and I regularly had encounters with the Springville PD, as did many other kids.  It was difficult to live in Springville under the oppressive influence of the LDS church and the very aggressive police department. 

When my brother was 16 years old, he killed himself after receiving a lot of harassment from this police department, though he was never charged with a crime.

As an adult, I regularly visit Springville because my family still lives there and we love to visit with my 89 year old grandma. 

While I am visiting my home town, I take it upon myself to excercise my free speech.  I hold rally's and protests all over Northern Utah. I usually take video and I upload it to YouTube. 

On June 12th, I did not have a second person with me to film the incident and I was arrested for "Use of Streets" without a permit. 

The police arrested in relationship to this code 8-4-108.
Which says:
“It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to congregate about or upon any street, sidewalk, stairway, doorway, window or in front of any business or dwelling house, theater, lecture room, church, or elsewhere and by so doing obstruct or interfere with the free passage of persons traveling upon street or sidewalk or entering, leaving or occupying any such building or premises; or by their language, conversation, or conduct, to annoy, insult, or disturb persons passing along any street or alley or occupying, residing, or doing business in any house of place within the City. It shall be unlawful for any person to hold, conduct or address any assemblage, meeting or gathering of persons or to make or deliver any public speech, sermon, lecture or discussion, or to conduct or take part in any public debate or discussion, in or upon any public street within the City unless such person shall have first obtained a permit in writing so to do from the City Council.)
1968 Code 4-1-7; amended in codification 1979; 1979 Code 8-3-8; renumbered by Ord. No. 25-92; Ord No. 03-2009, 03/17/2009)

When I wrote Tom Fitzgerald to ask to obtain one of these “Freedom of Speech” permits, this was the response:  I planned on protesting at my pre-trial meeting on August 31st, and I planned on going to trial, until I got this which is everything I wanted.

Mr. Thompson,

After reviewing your application, it does not appear that you need a formal permit for this activity.  On July 20, 2010, the Springville City Council removed the requirement for a permit issued by the City Council from its ordinance on congregating on streets and sidewalks.  The event you are proposing does not appear to trigger our special events permit process.  Thus, you can proceed with your event as described without the need for a permit from Springville City at this time.

If you plan a larger event in the future, please keep us appraised.  For example, if you wanted to close a sidewalk or road, there are special event permit and insurance requirements.

Troy K. Fitzgerald

City Administrator

At least now, no one in Springville Utah will ever get a fine or a criminal charge of “use of streets” for protesting. That law that has been on the books for over 9 years in its current format, and since 1968 in a previous version and it was abolished directly due to my tenacity to fight for our freedom and to fight for the strength and sovereignty of our constitution.

So now I am trying to fight this, and currently without representation. My question is, why is free speech in Utah such a problem? Almost every time I read the paper from Utah I read about a new ordinance that is designed to limit free speech and being legally challenged. 

Most recently an article came about about the panhandling ordinance in Salt Lake that has been under some contreversay and is opposed by the ACLU and many other civil rights groups because it (like so many other ordinances) limits free speech.

The law that I was arrested on severely limited free speech, as the permit required to have "free" speech took 30 days to approve (or deny) by the city council.  

I am glad that I challenged this law up to this point, and Im glad that they changed the law.

But at what cost to me and my small and young family. 

How will my kids do when daddy is behind bars?   What about the money it is costing our family to fight this issue.  How much is free speech worth?

To us free speech is one of the more important rights we have, and we will do everything in our power to preserve it.

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