A Florida activist said she was warned by a police officer to not wear a boxy condominium Halloween costume to a local party without a permit because it’s considered a protest of a planned development on a taxpayer-funded beach, according to a report.
Nevertheless, Cat Uden, a vocal critic of the project, said she plans to wear the costume to a block party in downtown Hollywood, Florida, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
A week ago, Uden invited people on Facebook to come to the Hollyweird Halloween party dressed up and with anti-condo signs to which the police responded that she would need a permit for an organized protest.
The condo would be built where a park and a community center currently stand. Another park and community center would be built elsewhere if the project goes through. A commission vote is expected later this year.
“Decorate a box and join us for the fun!” Uden wrote on Facebook. “The more condos we have standing together like a condo canyon, the more impact we will have. … This event will be well attended, and it’s a good way to get the word out. #HollyWeird.”
She said a few days after the post a police officer called to warn her that wearing the costume and leading others in a demonstration would be considered an illegal protest without a permit.
“I told him it’s a costume party,” she explained to the Sun-Sentinel, arguing she had a constitutional right to wear a costume. “I don’t consider it a demonstration and that’s why I didn’t apply for a permit.”
Cat Uden shows her Halloween costume that protests a 30-story condo proposed on Hollywood beach, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Hollywood, Florida. (Associated Press)
She said the officer finally agreed she could legally wear the costume but only if she doesn’t tell anyone what it is or why she’s wearing it.
“He said if I told anyone why I was wearing a condo costume it would be an unlawful protest. I was shocked,” Uden said.
She could be thrown out of the Saturday night party for wearing the costume or face arrest or a fine if she ignores an initial warning from officers.
She said she will leave her son at home when she attends the party, which is expected to attract around 5,000 partiers.
“I don’t want him to see me getting harassed by the police,” she told the newspaper.
Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University, told the Sun-Sentinel the police are on “shaky ground” with their warning, claiming her right to wear a costume and express her opinion is protected by the First Amendment. “There is no reason to think she is inciting anyone or that she will be starting a riot,” he said.
“It just keeps getting weirder and weirder,” Clive Taylor Jr., who also opposes the project said. “If people want to send a message with their costume, I don’t see what the problem is. That’s freedom of speech. People are very passionate about their beach and they don’t want to see the march of gigantic condos coming north from Hallandale.”