“If you are caught being poor anywhere near or around Atlanta, you will be fined and subject to arrest.”
That was the thought Atlanta-based comedian Ben Palmer, who’s embroiled in a trademark dispute with the city, had while waiting in a municipal courtroom for a judge to hear his case. Palmer had been ticketed for driving with an expired registration and without insurance, which he says he can’t afford. Then, while waiting for the judge, who was running late, Palmer had to run out and feed the meter. Twice.
“$16 total, $8 each time,” Palmer told Bloomberg BNA. “I had to excuse myself from the courtroom to refill my parking.”
Palmer took his frustration to Facebook, creating a parody “City of Atlanta” page where he swapped out the lower-case “l” in “Atlanta” for an upper-case “I,” getting a page that looks like it says “City of Atlanta” even though it really doesn’t.
After a while, he was posting about more than just his frustration with local motor vehicle laws. “Once I made the page it all flowed out. The feelings had a voice,” Palmer said.
“We have decided to abandon our transportation fund to build more strip clubs.”
“If you get murdered outside of Publix, you will be fined $100 for not being murdered outside of Kroger.”
“Starting next week, all Atlanta police officers will wear body cams so their clubbings can go viral.”
“Our Homicide Investigation Unit has relocated to the inside of Kroger, next to the sample lady. Please me [sic] mindful of this as you do your grocery shopping.”
“We have invested 90 million dollars in a trolley system that will allow citizens to travel 10 whole blocks in a total of 3 hours.”
“If you want to have a drink while you sit in rush hour traffic, feel free. We’ve decided to allow open container from 4PM – 7PM since you won’t be going that fast anyway. Crack open a brew and enjoy.”
“To ease traffic, we are adding more MARTA stations and routes. The changes will be implemented by the year 2060. Most of you will be dead by then.”
“If you make a satirical Facebook page mocking the city of Atlanta, you will be charged with a serious crime that is punishable up to 3-5 years in prison or be force [sic] to ride the trolley.”
“We have decided to build another football stadium next to the new stadium we are currently building which is next to the current stadium which is perfectly fine. We do not have any plans for the new stadium but just wanted to show people we could have 3 stadiums at once."
The page has gotten got more than 34,000 likes, but Atlanta’s municipal government is apparently not amused. No one has contacted Palmer directly, but the city released a statement objecting to Palmer’s use of the city seal on the Facebook page.
“The owner of the satirical City Facebook page was not authorized to use the City’s trademark,” the statement said. “We are working with Facebook to remove the City Seal and any other information on the Facebook page that might confuse or mislead the public into believing that the page or its contents represent the positions, policies or practices of Atlanta City Government.”
Palmer responded with an offer on his personal Facebook page:
“I will remove the logo from the page and discontinue posting as "City of Atlanta" in exchange for the following:
All of my parking and traffic tickets are absolved
2 free rides on the trolley
This is my final offer. Thank you.” Palmer hasn’t yet received a reply but did get his friends to tweak the version of the city seal on the parody page. The phoenix rising from the flames is now wearing a top hat and a monocle. And the flames are burning up a silhouette of the Atlanta skyline.
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