ACLU Files Suit to Protect Citizen's Right to Protest In His Own Front Yard

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
December 3, 1999 12:00 am

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DES MOINES — In a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a man forced to remove a sign of political protest from his property, the ACLU said that the city of Coralville violated the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech.

Martin R. Hathaway erected the sign in late October to protest the city¹s refusal to discontinue a bus route along his asphalt street. The sign reads: “Stop the buses. Save our street.”

After the Coralville City Council rejected the pleas of Hathaway and some of his neighbors to change the bus route, the city sent a police officer to Hathaway’s home to serve him with an order from the city to take down his sign. To avoid the threatened $500 fine, plus $750 for each extra day he violated the order, Hathaway complied.

“Critizing the actions of local officials with a homemade sign is as American as apple pie and the Fourth of July,” said Ben Stone, executive director of the ICLU. “This case is about much more than just a single yard sign — it is about the right of everyone to express their views without government bureaucrats and politicians attempting to silence them,” said Stone. “If we tolerate this type of censorship simply because it’s merely a local issue, we give a green light to officials to suppress other critics,” he added.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, asks for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, nominal damages and reimbursement of litigation expenses. The defendants named in the case are the City of Coralville and James Kessler, the city’s Acting Building and Zoning Official. The plaintiff is represented by ICLU Legal Director Randall C. Wilson.

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