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Local tea party member says National Park Service violated his rights

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Updated: 7/09/2013 6:27 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A St. Augustine tea party member says his first amendment rights were violated on the Fourth of July when a park ranger issued him a citation for not having a permit to be on their property.

"I said you've got to be kidding," said David Heimbold, St. Augustine tea party member.

David Heimbold was issued a $225 citation by a National Park Service ranger for not having a "special use permit".

"I said I have to have a permit for being dressed up as Benjamin Franklin, carrying the original American battle flag, on property on the Fourth of July?" said Heimbold.

Heimbold was the only one in his group of four who got fined. According to him, he was singled out because he was holding a sign that read "TEA PARTY LIVES ON-4-U".

It happened around 8:50 p.m. on the north lawn of the fort as the group was heading back their car to watch the fireworks.

Attorney Bob Dees says First Amendment limitations do exist but they have to be reasonable.

"Sometimes that can include requiring a permit but that's usually the case where you've got a parade or a rally or something where it's going to effect traffic or public safety," said Bob Dees, First Amendment attorney with Milam & Howard.

We reached out the National Park Service for comment but a spokesperson said they would not comment on ongoing cases.

"You can't be required to get a permit based on what it is you're trying to say. If the tea party people can show that that's what happened then yes I think their rights were violated," said Dees.

Heimbold refuses to pay the fine and plans to fight his case in court.

"When you lose your freedom, they will tell you where you can speak, when you can speak and what to speak," said Heimbold.

According to the St. Augustine tea party chairman, Lance Thate, they will be discussing their next step in tonight's meeting.

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