Dear Members and Advocates,
In 2020, the Brevard County Board of Commissioners came up with an idea. In addition to the schools, parks, playgrounds and daycares that comprise the center of a 1000 foot exclusion zone where people required to register could not enter into, they wanted to allow businesses to be able to self-certify as a place where children regularly congregate. That would restrict registrants from coming within 1000 feet of their businesses. You can read more about that in a Reason article that came out last week.
Two years ago, we issued a call to action, asking for people to show up to the County Commission meeting at which this proposed ordinance would be discussed, and oppose it. There was one issue… The location where the County Commission meeting was to be held happen to fall within a 1000 foot exclusion zone, so people on the registry could not attend. That’s right. The very people who would be subjected to this proposed ordinance were not permitted to have their voices heard at the public hearing in which the ordinance would be considered.
We did manage to have family and friends show up to speak out against the ordinance. Some read statements from those who were not permitted to attend. Others spoke out against the impact it would have on their family should the ordinance pass. But the people who would be most impacted by the law were not permitted to even be there under threat of arrest, and their voices were silenced. Naturally, the ordinance passed and for the past couple of years, registrants have been living under this vague addition to the ordinance that added to the exclusion zone but gave no notice to the registrants of which businesses (or the businesses within 1000 feet of that business) were now off limits to them, and there were no lines in the pavement showing where they could or could not go. One misstep and they could be arrested.
Setting aside the ordinance itself, the action taken by the Brevard County Commission in passing it was illegal. Not only was it unconstitutional, but it violated Florida’s open government law (the “Governing in the Sunshine Law”) that literally made it a crime. On August 25, 2020, FAC reported this crime to Attorney General, Ashley Moody. To date we have received no response. We also wrote to several first amendment rights organizations seeking help, including the Ella Baker Center, the Brennan Center at NYU, The Rutherford Institute, and several others. Initially we wrote saying there was a segment of the population being prevented from attending public meetings and we received a response, but when we let them know the plaintiffs were on the registry, they backed off. Fortunately, one organization, the Florida Justice Institute, stepped up and took on the case!
The Brevard Commissioners had plenty of advance notice that what they were doing was unlawful. We sent them several letters, we told them so at the hearing, and FJI attorneys reached out before filing. They simply didn’t care. That was until the lawsuit was filed in January of this year. After their attempt to have the complaint dismissed failed, they realized they were up against the ropes and in April very quietly voted to create an exemption to allow people on the registry to attend County Commission meetings. The following meeting, several registrants appeared to speak out against the proximity ordinance. Although they met up with a very hostile board of Commissioners, at least they were able to show up and speak out.
As for the lawsuit, now that registrants could attend meetings, the County thought things were all good. But they weren’t. Remember that ordinance that was passed two years ago that allowed businesses to certify as places where children congregate? Yeah, that one that was passed without registrants being able to attend and speak out against? Well since that ordinance was passed in violation of the law, that ordinance needs to go also. So again, the sneaky Commission quietly decided to require “another read” of that proposed legislation at a subsequent Commission Meeting, one that registrants will be able to attend. We expect that next read might take place at the August 2, 2022 meeting.
We are hoping to have as many opponents to that ordinance as possible speak out at the meeting. Not just people from Brevard, but people from the surrounding Counties that might pass through Brevard. We also want business owners who may not want to self-certify as a “place where children congregate”, but operate within 1000 feet of one who will be forced to banish registrants merely because of their proximity to a business that chooses to. And we want to continue to have family members show up to speak out against the ordinance. Whether or not the Commissioners choose to pass the ordinance (again), it is important to get our objections on the record.
If you will be unable to attend but would like to send a letter opposing the proximity ordinance, we will hand-deliver letters emailed by Aug 1 to [email protected] or you can write to Brevard County Board of County Commissioners, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera, FL 32940 or email Cathy Lively at [email protected] and ask for your communication to be shared with the Commission.
Please continue to monitor our website for updated calls to action and PLEASE get involved in this important matter. There will be a conference call TODAY July 25 from 5:30-6:30pm ET to discuss attendance, speakers, and letters of opposition. You are welcome to join the call at 319-527-3487.
And one more thing that we need to start thinking about is diversity and inclusion. In 2018, Alissa Ackerman and Meghan Sacks did a study on the minority presence on the registry and found that in all states other than Michigan, African Americans have a higher rate of inclusion on sex offender registries. In the two years before that, a University of Albany study found that one percent of all black men in the U.S. are registered sex offenders, and black men enter the sex offender registry at nearly twice the rate of white men. While African Americans are disproportionately higher represented on the registry, they are disproportionately lower represented in the advocacy movement. It’s something that we’ve been thinking about for a while but a problem we were confronted with when invited to join a panel on FoxSoul, a live streaming platform distributed by Fox Television that caters to the African American population. Where are the men and women of color in our movement, are we unintentionally doing something to alienate this critical population and what can we do to invite more people from all minority groups to our movement?
The Florida Action Committee
See Calendar of Events – Keep up with Meet-and-Greets in your area, Support groups, Membership Calls, and other events. For questions, contact [email protected] or call 833-273-7325,Option 1.
Click Here for Calendar, and double click on the event to view details and RSVP instructions
July 30 – Meet-and Greet in Bradenton
July 30 – Meet-and-Greet in Brooksville
Aug 6 – Meet-and-Greet in Apopka
Aug 20 – Meet-and-Greet in Daytona
Aug 26 – Women Only Meet-and-Greet – Fort Lauderdale
Aug 27 – Meet and Greet in Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood
Become a County Coordinator. The only requirement is your desire to HELP us organize your county. If you are interested in joining the County Coordinator Team, leave message at 833-273-7325, Option 1, or email [email protected]
Letter-Writing Campaigns – If you would like to participate in sending educational information to specific decision makers in Florida, please contact [email protected]. Volunteers must be willing to proudly identify themselves by using their own name and return address on the letters.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THIS WEEK
UPDATED – There will be a conference call on Monday July 25th from 530pm-630pm to organize attendees for the Aug 2 Commission meeting, as well as future Commission meetings. We need your help. We need attendees, speakers and letter writers. Join the planning meeting….read more
We don’t want you to miss anything! A huge THANK YOU to all of our members for your constant support and involvement. If you need to update your contact information, or if you are NOT receiving Weekly Updates and announcements of local events, please email…read more
The Government of Dominica is open to the idea of introducing a sex offenders registry but not all are in favor. Currently, only Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Belize have sex offender registry laws in some form. However, the Antiguan and Barbuda government just…read more
On Wednesday, July 27TH, 2022 Fox Soul’s “Business Of Being Black With Tammi Mac,”, a live streaming (national) platform distributed by Fox Television dedicated to the African American viewer, will be discussing the topic: SHOULD THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY BE…read more
It was 2009 and in the few years since the City of Miami and the City of Miami beach had passed a sex offender residency restriction (SORR) hundreds of people required to register found themselves displaced to a parcel of land under the Julia Tuttle Causeway,…read more