Protesting without a permit? You’re under arrest.
That was the experience of Mark Schmidter, who was recently arrested and jailed for 11 hours for protesting Apopka, Florida’s red light cameras.
Schmidter, a libertarian activist, stood at a local intersection and handed out flyers to drivers who were stopped during red lights. The flyers denounced red light cameras as a moneymaking scheme for the police department.
A police officer eventually arrived on the scene and arrested Schmidter for protesting without a permit and obstructing a public street. An argument ensued: Schmidter refused to give his name until he could speak with legal counsel, and the officer refused to provide legal counsel until Schmidter revealed his name.
“I then told him if he did not provide his name, I would book him as John Doe and that he will have to sit in jail for however long it takes for the jail to identify him,” said Officer Robert Campbell in his report, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The officer claimed that Schmidter had no right to withhold his name, since it wasn’t “incriminating evidence.”
Schmidter was held in jail for 11 hours. Upon his release, he was fined $65.
This was not the activist’s first run-in with police. He was jailed for 104 days in 2011 after distributing flyers to potential jurors informing them of their Constitutional right to decide cases on legal merits.
The Apopka police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Red light camera have stirred up controversy in many states. Some studies charge that the cameras actually make roads less safe and increase collision rates at intersections, because drivers slam on their brakes when they notice the cameras. Camera tickets rake in tons of cash for police departments, however.