You Know, It Just Sends the Wrong Message When You Tase the Statue of Liberty

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Even if arresting somebody dressed as the Statue of Liberty is justified, you really should try to make sure diplomacy has completely failed before resorting to force. It just looks bad.

Or, it sends an unfortunate message, I should say. I haven't seen a picture of the arrest, which may have looked hilarious.

According to the Dallas Morning News, on Monday afternoon a Fort Worth police officer used his Taser to subdue a 19-year-old man dressed as "Lady Liberty" when he refused to comply with an order. Liberty was allegedly standing on a median, soliciting customers for Liberty Tax Services. The officer told Liberty he would have to move because he was violating a local ordinance against selling or soliciting things on medians and traffic islands. Liberty objected to the restriction, and at some point the officer told him he was under arrest. According to the report, the officer said "[Liberty] resisted, a claim that [he] seems to acknowledge:

"I told him, 'Get away from me! What are you doing? Go talk to my boss!'" [Liberty] recalled. "[The officer] doesn’t cooperate with me. And then he takes out his Taser."

Attempting to gain control of [Liberty], the arresting officer shot him in the small of his back, which allegedly had no effect. He was tased a second time in the forehead and below his left ear before police could place him under arrest.

That's three tasings, I think, but who's counting. It's also clear evidence that the officer in fact didn't "cooperate" with him, although it's not clear why he thinks the officer needed to do that. I would agree that the cops must respect Liberty but this was just a guy in a Liberty suit.

People in Liberty suits have rights, too, but not the unrestricted right to solicit customers from a median. While this does implicate the First Amendment, it would be the kind of time, place, and manner restriction that usually passes muster. The situation would be different if a local government tried to completely ban the use of such "moving signs" or (as I prefer to call them) "business mascots," which of course is something that has happened before. See "The McHenry Code," Lowering the Bar (Sept. 6, 2006).

Coincidentally, that incident (which happened in Illinois) also involved "Lady Liberty," as well as the Verlo Mattress Factory's "Mattress Man," a 4-by-3-foot ambulatory mattress with "comically large hands." McHenry's city council had decided that such "live moving signs" were distracting drivers (which is part of the point of having one) and causing a nuisance because people honk at them. (The council also threw in an alleged "safety risk" to the person in the costume, saying they might get heatstroke.) If I recall correctly, the council later reversed itself on the complete ban, thus giving Liberty some limited freedom.

While I think mascots are funny, I probably remember that case more for an unrelated McHenry ordinance I noticed while researching that post, which was a 269-word definition of "buttocks." I've since seen at least one other similar ordinance, which suggests they didn't come up with it on their own. If anybody knows where the hell they are getting this thing, please let me know.