Tags: Keith Greenberg | Gadsden Flag | Florida

Florida Shop Owner Fighting City Law Over Navy Flag

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A customer, looks over a Gadsden "Don't tread On Me" flag displayed in a window as leaves the Gear Barrel Tactical Gear store on Northeast 3rd Street in Ocala, Fla. (Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Star-Banner/Landov)

By    |   Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 01:52 PM

An Ocala businessman is fighting back against a city demand that he remove a Gadsden "Don't Tread On Me" flag from the front of his business.

Keith Greenberg, owner of the Gear Barrel, a store that specializes in upscale knives and other sporting goods, was warned by the Ocala City Council that he would be fined $250 to $500 a day if he does not remove the flag, The Blaze reported.

"This is a shock," Greenberg told The Blaze. "Honestly, I feel like this is Russia. This is what you expect in really closed countries where there is no freedom of expression, not here, so it’s shocking."

The Gadsden Flag, a yellow standard bearing the image of a coiled rattlesnake, was used by colonial revolutionaries and the Navy in 1776 and is still flown on U.S. Navy ships today.

The Blaze notes that a used car lot in Ocala flies a Mexican flag, while an Irish pub flies an Irish flag.

Ocala city code 110-6(7) allows only "governmental or religious flags or insignia and holiday decorations incidental to the business and customarily associated with any national, religious, or local holiday," according to the Ocala Star Banner. Other flags may be temporarily flown, for two weeks four times a year, if business owners pay a $39 fee to the city.

Greenberg, whose business also sells "Don't Tread On Me" gear bags, removed the flag and reposted it inside his store window, replacing it with an American flag, but still feels his rights are being "treaded on."

"We find ourselves in a sad place where local municipalities are stepping all over people’s freedom with the signing of a pen," Greenberg told The Blaze. 

"The issue for me is a First Amendment issue," he told the Star Banner. "It's freedom of speech — freedom of expression."

The conservative Rutherford Institute agrees and has demanded that the city withdraw its threat against Greenberg.

"What we’re seeing is the criminalization of free speech, manifested in incidents where the government attempts to censor speech that is controversial, politically incorrect, or unpopular," John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, said on the group's website. "Under the First Amendment, the government has no authority to pick and choose what type of speech it approves."

Ocala has announced on its website, "We currently have 33 other business owners who have also received notices of violation for the same reason. Some of these businesses have not yet complied with the notices of violation. If they continue noncompliance, they are subject to fines."

The City Council has "directed city staff to review the ordinance and bring back an expanded definition of the American flag for council to consider."

Councilwoman Mary Rich told the Star Banner, "It's a good code, and they told the man he could fly it inside his window. So I don't know why we need to change the whole ordinance because one man doesn't want to put his flag in the window."

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An Ocala businessman is fighting back against a city demand that he remove a Gadsden "Don't Tread On Me" flag from the front of his business.
Keith Greenberg, Gadsden Flag, Florida
495
2014-52-11
Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 01:52 PM
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