Street preacher says he’s being silenced for views
Monday, July 29, 2013
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A Springfield street preacher who has been repeatedly ticketed for disturbing the peace says video footage of an incident a week ago shows he is being singled out because of his Christian views and not the volume of his amplifier.
Aaron Brummitt had his amplifier and other equipment seized the night of July 20, just steps away from where the Springfield Craft Beer Bash was being held, The Springfield News-Leader reported.
Footage captured by a partner, Dennis Vance, shows at least four Springfield police officers cutting locks securing Brummitt’s equipment to a nearby street sign and moving it into the trunk of a nearby patrol car.
“Sir, I’d like to ask you to not take our equipment tonight,” Brummitt says at one point in the video.
“You’ve been warned repeatedly,” an officer can be heard responding.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said Brummitt was repeatedly issued warnings that he ignored, and that Brummitt’s evidence is unfounded.
“I viewed the YouTube posting and would characterize the comments included as inaccurate and not based on facts but rather an attempt to garner support for an illegal activity,” Williams told the newspaper in an email. “I also think the officers involved acted professionally and with restraint based on the suspect’s actions.”
The amplifier, a Bible and other equipment seized by police have a value of about $500, Brummitt said, and he still doesn’t have it back.
Brummitt denies that his amplifier violates the city’s 75-decible noise limit — it’s 100 decibels for special events with permits, measured at 50 feet from the stage — but he told police who were carrying away his equipment July 20 that the band right next door was too loud.
Video footage shows his decibel meter peaking at 105.7, though he also appeared to be closer than 50 feet from the stage. After recording the band, Brummitt and Vance took turns preaching at a nearby intersection before police shut them down. Brummitt can be heard in the video asking why the band wasn’t being cited for exceeding the 100-decibel limit, but he received no response.
Brummitt’s attorney, Dee Wampler, said he has written the city manager and chief of police twice “in an effort to mediate Aaron’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.” He said he had received no response.
In April, Brummitt told the newspaper he was told in an email by a city staff member that he did not need a permit to preach downtown as long as he didn’t obstruct pedestrian traffic, kept the noise level to 75 decibels and didn’t use city power.
“Aaron speaks one hour a week, Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Rock bands, beer bashes and other gatherings are given a permit or pass. Aaron is told he doesn’t need a permit,” Wampler said. “This needs to be settled now, for the benefit of the right to speak and others to enjoy privacy and quiet.”
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