Re-enactors feel city law limits them

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Historic reenactors want to do more reenacments in St. Augustine but they feel the city is limiting what they can do.

Throughout various times of the year, you can see historic reenactors march along St. George Street, carrying out events such as the Changing of the Guard or Sir Francis Drake's Raid.

However, a law on the city books is limiting reenactments -- or what the city calls parades – to three per year per group.

Bob Alvarez is a historical reenactor. He smiled and said, "We're called reeanctors, but we're more historical interpreters."

He's the President of the St. Augustine Garrison, which is part of the Historic Florida Militia. It's an umbrella entity for several re-enactor groups in St. Augustine.

"The visitors love to see us. Many times people think we're city employees, and we explain that we are volunteers. We do this free of charge," Alvarez noted. "We enjoy doing it!"

However the Historic Florida Militia has hit a blockade. The city considers re-enactments or marches on St. George Street parades, and there is a city code which limits parades on this popular street.

Alvarez explained, "We'd like to use St. George Street 14 times through the year. Basically once a month." There would be two month which had two events. The series would starting in the fall of 2014 to help celebrate the St. Augustine's 450th anniversary. Alvarez said they usually just need a few barricades (which his colleagues take down afterwards) and one police officer to help with traffic at crossroads.

However, the city only allows three parade permits on St. George Street per year per group.

"The ordinance is based on protecting traffic flow of pedestrians and emergency vehicles on the street," City Attorney Ron Brown explained.

Alvarez wonders if there is a waiver his group could receive due to the historic nature of the events for the 450 anniversary.

Brown says a waiver cannot happen, saying parades are "First Amendment freedom of speech events." He said, "Constitutionally we can't give a waiver because it would favor one form of speech over another."

Alvarez and other reenactors hope there is something that can be worked out, pointing to a recent county study which shows the St. Augustine visitor wants something authentic.

"A lot of the public thinks there's too much commercialism in St. Augustine, and people come here for the history and they want to see historically correct events," Alvarez said, "which is what we're trying to provide."


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