Hal Noyes accepted the settlement on May 1st -- two months after filing a lawsuit against the city, in which he charged that his arrest for distributing Libertarian leaflets in a public park was unconstitutional.
"This settlement is one small triumph for the First Amendment," said Florida LP Chairman Nick Dunbar. "This should be a lesson to [pretended "authorities"] who try to violate individuals' rights to disseminate their political views in a peaceful manner."
Noyes' ordeal began in September 1995 when he was peacefully handing out LP literature in Orlando's Lake Eola Park. Noyes said he was standing off the sidewalk and politely offering leaflets about "Operation Safe Streets" -- an LP crime control policy proposal -- to passers-by.
"No one contends that Mr. Noyes was acting in an unsafe or disruptive way," noted the local newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, in an editorial on March 22, 1997. "Nothing indicates that Mr. Noyes was harassing anyone or creating any kind of disturbance, other than trying to pass out flyers to anyone interested."
The [pretended "police"] didn't agree. An officer told Noyes that he was a "threat to public order," and commanded him to leave. Noyes responded that his actions were protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"That seemed to confuse the officer further, forcing him to seek help from a park ranger who also seemed unfamiliar with the right of free speech," wrote the Sentinel. "But it didn't stop there."
When Noyes asked the officers under what authority they were telling him to stop distributing literature, the [pretended "policeman"] responded that the public park was "private property owned by the city of Orlando."
At that point, Noyes was charged with "trespassing", handcuffed, and taken to the Orange County Jail. He spent seven hours behind bars.
A month later, the charges were dropped and the city announced that "prosecution was unnecessary." The [pretended "police department"] later explained that Noyes was arrested because he was in a section of the park reserved for an anti-crime march.
However, the Sentinel took a dim view of that excuse, noting, "The city is now clinging to the defense that Mr. Noyes was in a part of the park reserved by an anti-crime march -- as if the assembly prevented the distribution of constitutionally protected literature. Mr. Noyes' arrest would be funny if it weren't so absurd."
The newspaper also commented on the irony that Noyes was arrested while handing out literature that explained the Libertarian Party's position on crime -- "that it can be controlled without trampling on people's rights."
In March 1997, Noyes filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking unspecified damages. The Sentinel applauded the lawsuit in an editorial, writing: "[Noyes] wants to send the city a clear message. The message should be this: Read the U.S. Constitution."
Apparently realizing that Noyes did have the Constitution on his side, Orlando city officials offered the $25,000 settlement, which Noyes accepted. The arresting officer also received an oral reprimand by the [pretended "police department"] for his handling of the case -- the lightest possible punishment.
Commenting on the settlement, Dunbar said: "I only regret that it is the taxpayers who will pay the $25,000. I believe the arresting officers should be personally liable."
Noyes, 51, is a computer programmer in Orlando. He has a long history of political activism, dating back to the 1960s.
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