The city of Frisco recently enacted a new ordinance which prohibits people from standing in road medians. This comes hot on the heels of a popular viral video depicting Ron Martin, a local who stood in a median carrying a sign warning drivers about a police installation on the other side of the bridge set up to catch speeding motorists.
Infringing on rights.
The ordinance was ostensibly set up to stop similar occurrences from happening. However, many people see this as just another way of infringing on a citizen’s First Amendment right. Mr. Martin, 33, was booked on a misdemeanor charge and held in the city jail. He was also required to pay $217 bond fee in order to be released.
Frisco Police Chief John Bruce was part of the committee that proposed the new ordinance which was passed unanimously by the City Council. Additionally, the police department states that the median issue was a public safety one. The new ordinance prohibits people from stopping, sitting, running, entering upon or walking on a median. However, cleaning and repair crews would be allowed on them, as well as emergency services as needed.
This new ordinance, as it’s written, prohibits even dog walkers and joggers from crossing the median. Anyone who flouts this new ordinance would be booked under a misdemeanor charge and fined $500. Given the fact that the ordinance is new, police officers agreed that they would first give warnings to individuals in order to raise awareness before resorting to citations or arrests.
Mark Mesinger, Ron Martin’s attorney stated that stopping people from holding up signs along medians amounts to muzzling free speech. Mr. Martin also said that he felt disrespected by the new ordinance and that he was honestly trying to help out by encouraging motorists to slow down.
Has Frisco Texas set a precedent?
The unconstitutional nature of this ordinance opens up a legal quagmire for the police department as well as the Frisco City Council. If someone decides to challenge this new law, it could set a precedent regarding what constitutes First Amendment infringement in other cities and states.
I’m interested in seeing how this new law plays out. On one hand I can see how this can be a safety issue, and how allowing people to gather in the median could put them in danger. On the other hand, this new ordinance appears to be in response to one particular situation, and not at all motivated by safety.
To read the actual ordinance, please click on this link.