JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New signs posted at Jacksonville City Hall warn people there is no access to city officials in their offices without permission.
According to the signs, an impromptu visit could land you in jail. But is that legal?
The new signs warn people not to go upstairs. That’s where the mayor’s office is located and where some public meetings are held. The signs say you need an appointment or invitation. It also warns against making noise that disrupts city employees’ work.
About two weeks ago protestors made a ruckus upstairs, demanding the mayor follow through with a promise to remove Confederate statues, but when they came back Tuesday night, they were told they weren’t allowed up the elevator.
An attorney told News4Jax the signs go too far.
“It’s confusing. It’s vague. It talks about arrest, trespass,” said News4Jax legal expert Ed Birk.
The signs say those who are asked to leave and refuse could be arrested. Birk said depending on how this is enforced, it could also be illegal.
The signs by the elevator say upper floors are accessible by appointment or invitation only but there are some meetings with public officials that happen upstairs that the public is by law allowed to attend.
Birk said people also have a right to go up and talk to officials about issues they’re having if they aren’t disrupting anyone.
“City Hall operates for the people, the taxpayers...and people have a right to be able to go in and ask for services,” Birk said.
But he says it’s a different story when it comes to protests.
“Can’t go and interrupt operations of a government agency or building unnecessarily or you’re going to be arrested,” he said.
He says that’s nothing new. But these new signs could have a chilling effect.
“It’s going to cause some people to be afraid to go into City Hall,” Birk said.
We reached out to the city it declined to make anyone available for comment.