Lee County officials will decide later today whether to bill the organizers of last week’s Hispanic rally in Fort Myers for costs associated with the event. Lee Sheriff – Mike Scott – bought more than 600 sets of riot gear – including helmets, face shields and batons – at a cost of more than 300-thousand dollars.
The sheriff says the equipment was necessary to ensure the estimated 80-thousand marchers remained peaceful.
President of the Lee County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union - John Symonik – says government agencies can’t just charge people for exercising their first amendment rights.
“That’s why we have a publicly funded police force. That’s why they’re given money so that when things come up like this they’re able to deal with it. But what they’re doing is trying to stifle free speech by charging fees for people to express their views.”
Symonik calls the idea “out of the ordinary” because what the sheriff is proposing has been ruled unconstitutional before. He says the ACLU is prepared to defend the church that sponsored last Monday’s march – as well as any protestors – against any attempt by Lee County to recover rally costs.
Tuesday, 18 April 2006 01:00