"Locked Up"

In this screen capture from Jeff Gray's video, "'Locked Up' for Freedom of Speech in Moultrie, Ga.," Moultrie Police Cpl. Brittany Johnson and City Manager Pete Dillard talk with Gray, who is holding the camera.

MOULTRIE, Ga. — A Florida man asserting his right to protest in Moultrie was charged with disorderly conduct Wednesday afternoon.

Jeffery Marcus Gray, 48, of St. Augustine, videoed himself walking on the sidewalk alongside Second Street Northeast at the Moultrie Municipal Building. He carried a hand-written sign with an obscenity: “F*** City Hall.”

The disorderly conduct charge stems from the obscene word on the sign, not any other aspect of Gray’s behavior, which is very calm throughout the video.

The video shows Moultrie City Manager Pete Dillard approaching the camera, apparently being held by Gray. He greets him, introduces himself and shakes his hand.

“I’m curious,” Dillard says. “What’s your issue?”

“Just expressing my right to freedom of speech on the day before Independence Day,” Gray responds. “To be critical of city hall.”

“Anything in particular?”

“Nah, not really.”

“Isn’t that kind of a vulgar way of doing it?” Dillard asks.

“It sure is,” Gray answers. “Absolutely.”

Dillard seems perplexed why someone with no particular issue with Moultrie city government would march outside city hall with a vulgar sign.

A Moultrie police officer approaches, and she and Dillard say Gray needs “an outdoor permit from the city clerk.”

“I’d rather not do that. I’ll just stand out here with a sign,” he says.

“No, that’s what we can’t … You can’t just stand out here with a sign,” the officer says.

As the officer calls her supervisor for further directions, Dillard says, “I’m disappointed somebody would be that vulgar.”

“I’m disappointed at you guys that you’d come out and harass a person for free speech,” Gray responds.

“I haven’t harassed you,” Dillard says. “I just came out to talk to you.”

The video is about 6 1/2 minutes long and ends with Gray being put in handcuffs. He was taken to the Colquitt County Jail, where he has since bonded out.

The video has received more than 58,000 views on YouTube as of about 5 p.m. Friday.

Gray operates an organization called “HonorYourOath” Civil Rights Investigations and is associated with Photography Is Not a Crime, a Florida non-profit group. Both are involved with asserting citizens’ rights in the face of law enforcement or other government efforts.

The HonorYourOath channel on YouTube has 71,000 subscribers. The channel features videos of Gray confronting law enforcement and municipal officials, including one in which he holds a sign essentially similar to the one in Moultrie outside the Fort Pierce, Fla., city hall.

The Moultrie Police Department report on the incident was not available Friday afternoon — neither were any other reports from Wednesday or Thursday. A records clerk blamed it on having to spend time dealing with calls from Gray’s supporters. When The Observer tried to call the MPD about it, we couldn’t get through because all the lines were tied up.

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