Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- Michael Taylor is an open carry and Second Amendment activist. On June 24th, about 10 a.m., he and a number of friends were legally open carrying in Florida, while fishing on a Miami Beach pier. They are members of Florida Open Carry, and had notified the Miami Beach Police Department, by letter and telephone, that they would be open carrying at the pier, in advance. A letter notifying the Miami Beach Police Department and the City Attorney was sent on June 7th, 2018. A phone call was made the day of the event, hours in advance.
At first, an unidentified Park Ranger told them they had to leave the pier because they were openly carrying. They corrected the Park Ranger and showed him the statute that preserved the right to open carry while fishing, hunting or camping.
The Park Ranger is heard to mention something about Michael's afro haircut.
The park ranger left the area and called in the Miami Beach Police Department.
The Miami Beach Police arrived on the scene with guns drawn, rapidly advancing on Michael Taylor and his friends. The Florida open carry group had not done anything threatening, rude, or aggressive. They were simply fishing while exercising their Second Amendment rights. All of them, regardless of color or ethnicity, were handcuffed, disarmed, and searched.
Michael Taylor protested the heavy-handed tactics and told the officers that he was not relinquishing any of His Fourth, Fifth, First, and Second Amendment rights, and that he was not giving any consent to search anything.
In most jurisdictions, it is aggravated assault to point a gun at someone without legal justification. In this case, I fail to see any legal justification for the drawn firearms in the hands of police. The police compounded their bad position by handcuffing the open carriers without any reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.
Michael repeatedly asked why they were being detained. The officers refused to say. Eventually, one officer came up with an often rendered excuse, when no crime is known. “Officer safety”. But the open carriers complied with the officer's orders never touched their guns, and never threatened the officers. Courts have ruled the mere presence of a firearm is not enough to disarm someone for “officer safety”.
Michael had put his phone on the pier to facilitate video recording while the assault was occurring. One of the officers noticed the phone and stopped the video recording by covering the camera. The screenshot shows him just before he covered the camera.
The Miami Beach park ranger, the Miami Beach Police Department officers and the police chief, may be personally liable for violating Florida preemption law in this case. The law has a provision for willful and knowing violation of citizens rights in this area. The decision by the park ranger and the police officers to ignore the law, when presented with it by Michael Taylor, and the written notice given to the police three weeks prior to the event and hours before the event on May 24th, could easily rise to the level of knowing and willful violation of the law.
Here are the appropriate sections of the Florida preemption law. From leg.stat.fl.us:
(b) If any county, city, town, or other local government violates this section, the court shall declare the improper ordinance, regulation, or rule invalid and issue a permanent injunction against the local government prohibiting it from enforcing such ordinance, regulation, or rule. It is no defense that in enacting the ordinance, regulation, or rule the local government was acting in good faith or upon advice of counsel.
(c) If the court determines that a violation was knowing and willful, the court shall assess a civil fine of up to $5,000 against the elected or appointed local government official or officials or administrative agency head under whose jurisdiction the violation occurred.
(d) Except as required by applicable law, public funds may not be used to defend or reimburse the unlawful conduct of any person found to have knowingly and willfully violated this section.
(e) A knowing and willful violation of any provision of this section by a person acting in an official capacity for any entity enacting or causing to be enforced a local ordinance or administrative rule or regulation prohibited under paragraph (a) or otherwise under color of law shall be cause for termination of employment or contract or removal from office by the Governor.
(f) A person or an organization whose membership is adversely affected by any ordinance, regulation, measure, directive, rule, enactment, order, or policy promulgated or caused to be enforced in violation of this section may file suit against any county, agency, municipality, district, or other entity in any court of this state having jurisdiction over any defendant to the suit for declaratory and injunctive relief and for actual damages, as limited herein, caused by the violation. A court shall award the prevailing plaintiff in any such suit:
1. Reasonable attorney’s fees and costs in accordance with the laws of this state, including a contingency fee multiplier, as authorized by law; and
2. The actual damages incurred, but not more than $100,000.
Police chief Daniel Oates comments after the release of the legal open carriers and Second Amendment supporters practically screams of willful and knowing violation of the law. The law was passed, in part, exactly to protect against such violations of Constitutional rights. From the miamiherald.com:
Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates said, “Given the current climate, if six people show up to to a pier in South Beach carrying guns, our citizens expect us to respond promptly and address any potential danger. We did so, and I am confident our officers acted appropriately.”
That may prove to be an expensive comment by Chief Oates. Ignoring clear notice of intent to exercise rights, willful refusal to read the law when given clear opportunity to do so, assaulting peaceful citizens merely because they were exercising their rights. These all seem to be things Chief Oates heartily approves of.
Will Miami Beach compound the offense by using public funds to defend against a lawsuit in this case? I suspect they will claim that the offense was not “knowing and willful”. The prior notices, by letter and telephone, and the unwillingness of the officers to even consider the law, work against that interpretation.
Florida Open Carry is preparing a lawsuit.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.