Man Wants to Slackline on Fort Lauderdale Beach, but Cops Won't Let Him
According to city records, he was told that "permission is necessary for the private instruction of your tightrope activities and/or to solicit on public beaches." On March 23 and again on the 28th, he was issued "Notices to Appear for Trespass After Warning."
On March 29, Phil G. Thornburg, director of parks and recreation, ordered Prows "to remain out of City Parks and beach areas for the period of six months," pursuant to the city's Parks and Recreation Enforcement Rules. He warned Prows could be arrested for trespassing "or other exciting [sic] ordinances."
"But I've read all the rules, and there's nothing in there about slacklines," Prows contends. "The closest thing they can come to is 'no hammocks.' Nobody could figure out what was going on."
(He says Miami cops never give him any problem.)
His attorney, Russell Cormican, says he's asked prosecutors several times what rule Prows had initially violated to trigger the subsequent trespass violations. "First, they said there was a rule prohibiting hammocks. Well, it's obviously not a hammock. Then they said there was a rule that you can't damage a tree. I don't think they've found any evidence that he was damaging the tree."
Prows' arrest report over the next several months became as varied as his slackline routine. On May 4, he was arrested while swimming in the ocean. He was arrested on May 10 while riding his bike through a beachfront park. He was arrested on June 9 while sitting against a tree. That incident also brought charges of resisting arrest and "unlawful possession of a concealed handcuff key" -- an item he had in his pocket because he uses it as part of his pirate act.
The city's website shows that part 7.5(g) of the city's Beach Rules and Regulations states that "Attaching hammocks to trees, showers or structures is prohibited." But a copy of the ordinance that city spokesman Chaz Adams provided has the same statute, rewritten to read, "Attaching any objects, including but not limited to, hammocks, ropes, slacklines, clotheslines, flags or banners to trees, showers or structures is prohibited." Adams declined to say when the city had updated its rules.
Attorney Cormican is trying to find out when the rule changed. If it didn't exist prior to Prows' first warnings, then all the subsequent arrests should be moot, he argues. "It seems like a simple question: When did you amend this rule? It didn't exist at the time they were warning him. If there's no rule, they can't arbitrarily pick and choose what they want people to do on the beach."
Asked by New Times to explain, Adams would say only: "It's not merely the slackline that's in question but rather the totality of Mr. Prows' actions, decisions, and disregard for parks rules and city ordinances. They continued even after city staff and police made numerous attempts to inform and educate Mr. Prows."
On a recent Thursday morning, as emerald waves hammered the beach, Prows, who now does property management at apartment buildings, sat at the corner of Las Olas Boulevard and A1A -- on the sidewalk, where he is technically allowed -- contemplating his clash with police. The indefatigably cheerful character couldn't understand why police think he's such a threat. "They tell me that I can't do anything," he sighed.
But then, he looked up, and his expression twisted in alarm. Three cop cars had just rolled up.
"Oh, man! Here they come!" Prows plunged a finger into his pocket and furtively removed a handcuff key -- lest the authorities charge him with another felony. He buried it in the sand and looked back at the cops glaring at him. "As you can tell," he murmured, "they won't stop harassing me." He felt lucky not to have his slackline with him.