Florida Activist Warned by Police That She Needs a Permit to Wear Her Halloween Costume

A woman in Hollywood, Florida, was reportedly warned by local police that she needs a permit to wear a Halloween costume designed to look like a condo building she's been protesting, or her attendance to a city block party could be considered an "unlawful demonstration."

Police told Cat Uden that if she came to the city's Hollyweird Halloween block party dressed as the condo building, it could be considered a planned protest and she could be hit with fines or even jail time, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Uden, who has been campaigning against a plan to build a 30-story condo on public beachfront land in Hollywood, is planning to wear the costume as a statement against the project.

Earlier this week, Uden posted a message on Facebook inviting others to show up to the block party dressed in condo costumes like hers.

"Decorate a box and join us for the fun!" she wrote. "The more condos we have standing together like a condo canyon, the more impact we will have. ... This event will be well attended, and it's a good way to get the word out. #HollyWeird."

A few days later, Uden told the Sun-Sentinel that a local police officer called her to say that she didn't have a permit to wear the costume or host a demonstration.

"I told him it's a costume party," she said. "I don't consider it a demonstration and that's why I didn't apply for a permit."

Eventually, the officer agreed that Uden could wear the costume—but only under the premise that she doesn't discuss why she's wearing it with anyone.

"He said I could wear it but I can't tell anyone why I'm wearing it," Uden added. "He said if I told anyone why I was wearing a condo costume it would be an unlawful protest. I was shocked."

Activist says cop warned her not to wear anti-condo costume - South Florida Sun-Sentinel https://t.co/bCHnOvu0IU

— Louis Aguirre (@LOUISAGUIRRE) October 29, 2021

According to CBS Miami, Deanna Bettineschi, a spokesperson for the Hollywood Police Department, said Uden was notified due to her social media post. If Uden attends the event and leads an organized demonstration, she will be given a warning and asked to leave, Bettineschi said. After a warning, the penalty could include arrest with a fine of up to $500 or 60 days in jail.

"While Ms. Uden feels as though she is being 'picked on', the post on her personal Facebook page has garnered 21 people interested in participating, and 12 people indicating they are joining her ... the Hollywood Police Department has a duty to address this potential demonstration in the same way we would any other unpermitted demonstration..," Hollywood Police added.

Despite the controversy, Uden says she still plans to attend the Hollyweird block party dressed as the condo building on Saturday, but she will no longer bring her son.

"I don't want him to see me getting harassed by the police," Uden told the Sun-Sentinel.

Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University, told the news outlet that Uden has a right to wear the costume under the protection of the First Amendment.

"The police are on very shaky ground," Jarvis said. "There is no reason to think she is inciting anyone or that she will be starting a riot."

Newsweek contacted the Hollywood Police Department for additional comment.

Halloween pumpkins, Florida condo costume
A Florida activist was warned by police not to wear a Halloween costume as a statement against a new condo building project, or she could face fines or even jail time. Here, a series of carved Halloween pumpkins are seen on October 31, 2014 in London, England. Rob Stothard/Getty Images