Meet Robert Smith aka “The Whistler”. The 32-year-old walks around downtown Portland, Maine, whistling.
Smith’s whistling has created some woes. Last summer Smith was arrested for disorderly conduct for whistling loudly in one spot. Downtown businesses’ said he was scaring off customers. As part of his agreement with the court, he must keep walking as he whistles.
Smith told the Portland Press Herald that he unsuccessfully argued with police that the constitutional right to free speech protects his right to whistle.
“All I’m doing is expressing myself freely,” he said recently. “People who express themselves freely should be held in the highest regard, not the lowest regard.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine declined to comment to The Herald on Smith’s specific case. However, the free-speech advocates said in a written statement that punishing someone for whistling does raise First Amendment concerns.
“In general, merely being annoying isn’t enough to constitute disorderly conduct,” said Maine ACLU spokeswoman Rachel Healy. “Unless it’s meant to incite chaos or violence, whistling in public is usually not a crime — and punishing someone for it could raise real First Amendment concerns.”
McAllister, the city prosecutor, said she disagrees that whistling is a protected form of free speech.
A Portland city ordinance specifically mentions whistling as a disorderly behavior, which carries fines ranging from $100 to $500.
Instead of worrying about him whistling while he walks, why not “whistle while he WORKS” and help him get a real job.
And that’s today’s helping of The Online Dish with Maggie.