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Man vs. City: FL Man Fighting Local Gov't Over Right to Post Critical Signs

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"Bring it on, brother."

Auto mechanic Wayne Weatherbee has been waging a one-man protest against the city of Clermont for years.

According to a local Florida station, WFTV, the dispute began after "Weatherbee [agreed] to move his business across the street, so the city could expand its police headquarters. Now Weatherbee says the city has denied his request for an occupational license at his new shop."  To be fair, Weatherbee refused to apply for some of the "special permissions" he needs in order to run an automotive shop in the central business district, on principle.

But the current issue began later when, in protest, Weatherbee began erecting signs critical of the city on his property.  He immediately began receiving charges of $75 a day, but rather than capitulate, new signs went up.  Messages included, "27 Years in the Automotive Business and this Town is Trying to Turn Me into a Sign Painter," and "ACLU Where Are You."

According to the ACLU, which did step in and file a suit on Weatherbee's behalf:

This series of actions crossed the line and unacceptably infringed on Weatherbee’s right to free expression...city officials have unconstitutionally targeted Weatherbee, attempting to suppress his free speech...

Political speech doesn’t have to be pretty to be protected.  And when a city regulates political speech based on its content, it is a violation of the First Amendment.  Clermont’s code, for instance, would allow, without a permit, a sign that urges viewers to ‘Vote for Crist for Senate,’ but would require a permit for one that reads ‘Impeach Gov. Crist.’ That’s viewpoint discrimination, and it’s unconstitutional.

The result?  A federal judge ruled in Weatherbee's favor in 2010, ordering that he be recompensed $62,000.  But the signs are still causing problems, and the city is "bracing for a rematch." How so? It went ahead and passed a new ordinance against signs:

The city may soon try to impose fines of up to $250 a day for signs that city officials contend violate Clermont's new sign ordinance, which was approved by the City Council after the loss in federal court.

"Bring it on, brother," said Weatherbee, thick engine grease under his fingernails.

When asked whether he's willing to just take the signs down now that he's "made his point," Weatherbee responded with a laugh.

"No, no, no, no, no, no...They're not going anywhere until we resolve the underlying issue that made me put them up in the first place ... . Sure, I sued the city, we won and the city paid. But who's the city? The city is us, the taxpayers ... . It's like I sued us, the taxpayers, to keep my signs, and protect my First Amendment right, our freedom of speech. Crazy."

(H/T: Blaze reader Donna A.)

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