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Black Lives Matter activists slapped with massive fines for using megaphones during protests in Florida town

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 11/23/2020 Nelson Oliveira

Racial justice activists are denouncing a Florida town where cops fined several people for using megaphones during Black Lives Matter protests, an apparent violation of a local noise ordinance.

One of the protesters, Christina Boneta, said officials in New Port Richey hit her with more than $2,500 in fines and once arrested her for refusing to sign a citation. The woman claims she never received a warning and only learned she had been fined when a friend looked up her court record, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“We might be annoying, yelling and chanting, but we don’t block traffic or take the streets or litter,” she told the paper. “We just literally chant and try to get our message across.”

Boneta and at least four other activists now owe an estimated $4,700 in fines even as she claims the group has stopped using megaphones.

A person speaks into a megaphone during a 'Black Lives Matter' demonstration. © ANGELA WEISS A person speaks into a megaphone during a 'Black Lives Matter' demonstration.

A person speaks into a megaphone during a 'Black Lives Matter' demonstration. (ANGELA WEISS/)

New Port Richey, a largely white community about 30 miles northwest of Tampa, implemented its strict noise ordinance in 2017 following complaints about loud downtown bars, restaurants and clubs. The controversial measure gives police officers the right to use their own ears, as opposed to a sound level meter, to decide whether a citation is warranted.

A Tampa Bay Times review of noise citations from July to November found that all complaints came from police officers, not civilians. City officials said they couldn’t comment because the cases are pending in court.

Critics described the citations as a brazen attempt to send protesters home.

“This has the ultimate impact of shutting down the constitutional rights of Black and brown folks and their white allies when it comes to protesting in a highly segregated space,” Utica College historian and former NYPD investigator Clemmie Harris told the paper.


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