The ACLU finally gets one right by taking the side of a beleaguered bait shop owner in Clearwater, Florida that is under attack by city officials over a mural of game fish painted on the outside walls of his bait shop.
City officials are claiming that the fish painting is an “advertisment sign” that falls under a beautification ordinance prohibiting large signs for businesses. The City has fined the shop’s owner Herb Quintero $700 and is warning that a further $500 a day fine can be imposed unless he paints over the fish.
But Quintero feels there is a fallacy in the City’s position. The ordinance is supposed to prohibit large signs advertising for products sold within the establishment. Quintero says that the game fish painted on the side of his building are hardly “products” and that no words appear among the depictions of those fish to advertise for anything. His mural is art, not advertising, Quintero says. And in the somewhat run-down section of the city in which his bait shop is situated, that art adds to the beauty of the area.
In protest to the treatment he is receiving at the hands of the city, Quintero covered the fish with a banner displaying the First Amendment to the Constitution. But the city was no amused.
“Only in Florida could a business owner be targeted and fined for displaying artwork, and then in protest of the fine, display the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — and then be ticketed for that,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.
The ACLU is taking the city to court on behalf of owner Quintero.
This is a fight for a certain amount of free speech. All liberty minded Americans should hope for the ACLU to be victorious over this corrosive power of the city to impose itself on its citizens. Anyone interested in the rights of property owners should support Mr. Quintero in this fight. More of these thuggish city rules should be challenged throughout the country to put a check on the nanny state in which we increasingly live.
(Photo credit: DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD, Times)