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FIRST AMENDMENT VIOLATION?: Man removed from Cape council meeting files lawsuit

Last October, the Cape Coral Police Department removed Scott Kempe from a Committee of the Whole meeting following a heated argument over the new design of Jaycee Park.
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Posted at 12:55 PM, Mar 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-26 12:55:48-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — A man removed from a Cape Coral City Council meeting has filed a lawsuit against the City of Cape Coral and its city council members.

Last October, the Cape Coral Police Department removed Scott Kempe from a Committee of the Whole meeting following a heated argument over the new design of Jaycee Park.

Kempe refused to sit down during the discussion of the design - and kept his back to the council.

After being asked by Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter to turn around, the mayor asked police to take him out of the room.

RELATED: CAPE CORAL | Man removed from public meeting during heated debate over new Jaycee Park design

Five months later, Kempe is now the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city.

You can read a portion of the documents below:

"Defendants unconstitutionally banned Plaintiff Kempe from attending Council meetings based upon his past expression,
and they arrested him for allegedly violating this unconstitutional ban. However, governments cannot categorically ban people from open meetings under the First Amendment, let alone arrest people for peacefully attending an open meeting."
Scott Kempe vs. City of Cape Coral

RELATED: CAPE CORAL | Man escorted out of city workshop defends his actions

The lawsuit going on to say that though Lee County prosecutors properly dismissed Kempe's arrest, the council continued to assert that they could ban him from attending future council meetings and amended council rules to ban others from meetings in future meeting - a violation of the First Amendment, Kempe's team argues.

As part of our previous reporting, the city provided a statement to FOX 4 as a spokesperson said it was within their legal right to remove Scott Kempe from the workshop.

Below is the full statement:

The Mayor and City Council have enacted Rules that govern the manner, process, and procedures to be utilized during the City Council Meeting in order to promote an orderly system of holding such a public meeting and conducting the official business of the City.  In that regard and to ensure compliance with these Rules and the orderly conduct of business by the City Council, an individual is not permitted to behave in a disorderly manner, make profane gestures, or refuse to follow the instructions of the Mayor or City Council which seek to ensure compliance with the Rules that govern the City Council’s official proceedings. 

Therefore, an individual’s refusal to comply with the City Council Rules will give rise to that person being escorted from the City Council Meeting Chambers by the Cape Coral Police Department. 

Kempe has filed preliminary injunction to stop the City of Cape Coral and Cape Coral City Council from continuing to enforce rules banning members of the public from future open meetings based upon past conduct.

He is also seeking the following:

a. Compensatory damages;
b. Appropriate injunctive relief
c. Declaratory judgment
d. Invalidation of official acts taken in violation of Florida law
e. Interest
f. Nominal damages
g. Attorney fees
h. Costs and expenses; and
i. All other relief this Court deems proper.