Fane Lozman was arrested at Riviera Beach City Hall last night for ... speaking at a commission meeting. Lozman, the houseboat-living activist who has been fighting the city to stop their eminent domain effort for a massive redevelopment of the city's waterfront area, was called up to the podium at about 8:30 p.m. to have his say. He began by bringing up indicted former Palm Beach County Commissioner Tony Masilotti.
"I was going to say the U.S. Attorney's Office was getting more vigilant, but I didn't get a chance to say that," he told me this morning. "[Commissioner] Liz Wade pointed at me and said she didn't want to hear it and to get me out of there."
Police immediately handcuffed Lozman and "dragged" him out o f the meeting.
"I started speaking very loud," he said. "I said, 'What's going on here?' They were dragging me. This guy chopped a handcuff
right in my wrist. I was trying to follow his lead but it wasn't easy."
They took Lozman to the nearby jail and charged him with trespassing and disorderly conduct. He was released after about 30 minutes on a "promise to appear." When he walked back to the meeting, Riviera Police Chief Clarence Williams told him that if he didn't leave he would be arrested again.
I met Lozman in August at the Riveria Beach City Marina and, on that day, he was almost arrested by police. At one point Assistant Police Chief David Harris told me that I needed to go and I told him, basically, "hell no." Lozman wasn't doing anything wrong; it was a total sham.
After my story was published, Lozman and his houseboat were given an eviction notice from the city. Lozman is still there and he's fighting the eviction in court.
So why is the city gunning for Lozman and trampling over the Constitution in the process? Well, he's been fighting corruption in Riviera Beach since he moved there last year. There's plenty there to fight and, as a relatively young self-made millionaire, Lozman has the time to fight it. Read this about Mayor Michael Brown to get a taste (and it doesn't even get into the Catulfumo deal to redevelop public beach on Singer Island -- that's a doozy too).
The Palm Beach Post didn't report on Lozman's arrest -- an abject dereliction of duty in my opinion. A couple TV stations caught it on camera and ran with it on the late news. Hoping to get the videotape.
Ironically, Wade -- who sikked the police on Lozman -- has been one of his few supporters inside the city.
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But Lozman made the mistake of calling her out at the last city hall meeting for taking bundled contributions from interests tied to Catulfumo's Ocean Mall redevelopment and the massive $2.4 billion redevelopment of the waterfront. Wade apparently had enough.
Adding to the irony is that Lozman achieved a great victory last night. He sued the city to stop the eminent domain process (that would have benefitted developers like Viking Harbor and Wayne Huizenga). He wasn't alone in the fight -- Jeb Bush was a powerful ally, as well. Last night, the commission voted to end its attempt to do an end-run around state law to seize properties.
Lozman didn't get to savor the moment. He was in jail at the time.
[I've got something to say about slots and other daily coverage, too, but it'll have to wait until this afternoon after I get my column out].