After more than two-dozen visits to overpasses and other venues around Maryland, Light Brigade Maryland — the group that displays lit panels that spell out messages promoting marriage equality in the Nov. 6 referendum — attracted the attention of four police officers on Oct. 24 in Arbutus in Baltimore County.
On the Selford Road bridge over I-95 facing southbound traffic, the police presence was immediately noticed. “Three were standing in a relaxed pose with their hands clasped behind their own back with their feet slightly spread,” recalled Mark Patro, the founder of the group. “The fourth was on a cell phone.”
Patro inquired as to whether or not there was a problem. A state trooper responded that they were there as requested back-up. He approached a female officer and asked her as well. She responded by saying she was on the phone with someone from the State Highway Administration. “SHA owns the bridge and they are asking you to leave,” the officer told Patro.
“Some of us felt like this was a violation of our First Amendment right to free speech and assembly,” said Patro. “My impression is that we can be on a public sidewalk as long as we are not blocking the passage of other pedestrians and we can be on a bridge as long as it has a sidewalk and we are not attaching things to the bridge.”
She indicated the signs are a “distraction” to drivers on I-95. Five more Light Brigade events are planned.