But that record soon took some splatters after he discovered a Brazilian man with dark, gelled hair slacklining one day on the Fort Lauderdale beach across from Rock Bar. It was December 2012, and Prows had recently been laid off from his job at the airport. Always drawn to athletic endeavors, he hopped atop the Brazilian's slackline, and a new obsession took hold. "I just thought it was sweet," he recalled on a recent breezy morning, hands at his hips. "I just wanted to bust mine out. I had one, but I never used it. But after I saw him, I thought, 'Oh, man, this is something I just gotta do.' "

Over the next several months, he added to the routine, first juggling balls while walking across the slackline, then bowling ball pins. Finally, he hoisted three long knives and, their blades glittering in the sunlight, whirled them while keeping his balance. Sometimes he would handcuff his hands and feet together for extra drama. Sometimes he would bring a baby rabbit. Sometimes his friend with a lemur would join him. Slowly, he became one of Fort Lauderdale beach's most recognizable characters.

A short and baby-faced cop approached him, Prows says. "You can't do this," Prows recalls the cop saying. "He told me, 'You can't juggle anymore.' " The cop issued a warning. Prows says he went to the cop's supervisor, who said Prows was allowed on the beach but could not slackline. But a week later, the same cop arrested him for trespassing, even though Prows says he was not slacklining at the time.

Both sides became entrenched, refusing to yield. On March 23, Prows, convinced he hadn't broken any law, defiantly materialized back on the beach, slackline, American flag, and pirate mask in hand. He claims he was not read his Miranda rights but was asked in the police car on the ride to the station whether he ever showed people how to slackline and if he accepted tips. He said sure, sometimes. Prows says cops used that conversation to justify detaining 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.

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3 comments
Prometheus
Prometheus

Easy solution: Send this troublemaker to a Chinese "re-education" camp !! Nothing like a Chinese Re-education camp to re-educate the trouble makers in society - especially those who think they can do as they please, say what they like. Let's start re-education camps in Broward - and let the police decide who needs re-educating.

DallasNE
DallasNE

Well, when you keep hiring more and more police officers what do you expect. They will find people to arrest and use that to justify still more police officers. It is how the game is played. It certainly has little to do with public safety. But then in Florida you can carry a concealed weapon, profile a person, confront that person, shoot them dead and walk away a free man with a fat bank account.

 
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