WEEKEND #8, 2008
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
FREE SPEECH OR ORDINANCE VIOLATION?
It's challenging enough to be a police officer without having to interpret the First Amendment. So when a couple "open-air campaigners" attempted to spread the word Wednesday night, the Rehoboth Beach police chief ended up receiving a call at home seeking advice on what police should do.
Mark Johnson and Joe Toy are two open-air evangelists who were in Rehoboth Beach this past week. One of the groups the men represent is Open Air Campaigners, whose evangelists use paints and paintbrushes for creating their trademark "sketchboard sermons." The organization says on its Website that its "mission is to take the gospel of Christ out from the church and into the public arena."
On Tuesday evening, a seasonal officer on patrol said he received two or three complaints about the men using public space for such purposes.
When the men were preaching around 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sgt. Mike Corbin told a seasonal officer to tell them they are violating city ordinances by blocking a public sidewalk and erecting a sign in public space.
The men insisted to speak with the officer's supervisor. Sgt. Corbin said he was busy. But four other officers arrived and had a lengthy discussion with the men on the dune crossover in front of the south boards Grotto's Pizza while passers-by stopped to watch.
Meanwhile, Sgt. Corbin called the police chief at home. The chief reiterated via Sgt. Corbin the city's policy about signs in public areas.
After a lengthy discussion with police, Johnson and Toy do not back down, and instead return to the sketchboard and continue their sermon.
Officers have a discussion on the encrypted police channel, the result of which is that an officer was assigned to maintain a watch on the men. The officers are visible in the distance on the concrete pad on Rehoboth Avenue (below).
So, who is legally correct in a case like this? "These types of situations are extremely fact-specific," says Umbreen Bhatti, staff attorney for the ACLU of Delaware.
"There is certainly a right to peacefully express one's view on a sidewalk, which is public property," Bhatti adds, "but that right is not absolute. The government may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that are content-neutral, leave open ample, alternative ways for expression, and are narrowly tailored."
"So, whether or not these individuals have a basis upon which to challenge the ordinances depends, among other things, on whether other individuals are being allowed to express themselves in the same area, what other avenues for expression are available to them (for example, may they carry signs, even if they may not erect them?)."
Bhatti refers us to the Right to Protest guidelines from the New Jersey ACLU.
This incident has not discouraged Johnson and Toy. Johnson says they will be in Ocean City this coming week.
TIDAL POOLS RETURN TO REHOBOTH
This was the beach looking south from Maryland Avenue on Friday evening. On Saturday night, Rehoboth Beach police officers were assigned to monitor the area around high tide because of potential dangers, particularly in the area of Philadelphia Avenue and Maryland Avenue.
CARPER VISITS REHOBOTH SATURDAY NIGHT
Gets blasted by fire siren
That does look like U.S. Senator Thomas Carper. He and the other folks are shielding their ears while standing on the center island of Rehoboth Avenue at Second Street.
The fire siren sounded for a full minute around 6:35 p.m. for a minor motorcycle accident outside Rehoboth. The siren is so loud, the police dispatchers often have trouble being understood over the radio.
MAN NEARLY GETS FOOT AMPUTATED IN BOATING ACCIDENT
A man injured by a boat’s propeller was taken to the Ocean City Coast Guard Station just before 7 p.m. Saturday. Rescuers said his foot was dangling from his leg. Firefighters asked for a medevac helicopter to fly the man to the Curtis Hand Center in Baltimore.
Photos by Christopher Michael Casale, Breaking News Network.
LOST KID REUNITED
Remember the first time you got lost as a child? Here's a happy reunion Friday night on the beach at Maryland Avenue.
WHAT IS GOING ON AT SILVER LAKE?
This was the scene Monday as a DelDOT contractor used a crane to place barges in Silver Lake next to the bridge. Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Stan Mills says workers are strengthening the bridge pilings by encapsulating the portion of the pilings that are exposed to cycles of wetness and dryness as the waterline fluctuates. Cycles of wet and dry accelerate deterioration. Additional work may include the removal of the brackets that supported a waterline which was recently removed and reinstalled under the lake.
COAST GUARD CUTTER WILLIAM TATE WORKS OFF REHOBOTH
The Coast Guard Cutter William Tate, a 175-foot coastal buoy tender, checks the 3HC buoy less than three miles northeast of Rehoboth Beach on Thursday afternoon. It remained on station for a couple hours and later headed up the Delaware River.
The cutter is responsible for the maintenance of 250 buoys in the Delaware Bay and River, and the Upper Chesapeake Bay. The cutter is designed, constructed and equipped to perform other Coast Guard missions such as domestic ice breaking, marine environmental protection and maritime law enforcement.
Just who was William Tate?
LOOKING NORTH FRIDAY TOWARD CAPE HENLOPEN