"Bix Smokes, Speech Lives!" Iowa Civil Liberties Union Declares

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
July 27, 1999 12:00 am

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DES MOINES — A federal court today affirmed the right of a Scott County couple to distribute “Bix Smokes” flyers at a festival celebrating jazz great Bix Beiderbecke, the Iowa Civil Liberties Union announced.

The flyer references specific passages of a book memorializing the jazz career of Bix Beiderbecke that describe the role of marijuana in the music and lives of the musician and his contemporaries.

Federal Judge Charles R. Wolle issued a preliminary injunction at noon today allowing James and Mellisa Getman of Davenport to distribute up to 1,000 flyers on the public streets and sidewalks within the festival this year.

“Bix smokes and speech lives!” exclaimed ICLU Executive Director Ben Stone, in a parody of the popular phrase “Bix Lives!”. “In line with the spirit of jazz itself, festival goers can now enjoy a more free-flowing and unrestricted event where they can learn more about the musician they celebrate,” he added.

According to a lawsuit filed on the Getmans’ behalf, the ICLU said that Davenport city police officers had seized the flyers and threatened the couple with arrest at last year’s Bix Street Festival. The couple said Davenport police told them that the Downtown Davenport Association did not want them to hand out their brochures in the area.

The ICLU said the case demonstrates how the so-called “war on drugs” threatens everyone’s rights.

“Here we have a city government threatening to arrest people just for wanting to inform their fellow citizens about the wisdom or effectiveness of marijuana prohibition,” said Stone. “Such government censorship must be stopped, or else no one will be safe to express their views on anything if people in the government don¹t like it.”

After today’s ruling, the case will likely continue with more hearings and the ultimate decision of the court regarding the issuance of a permanent restraining order in regard to subsequent Bix festivals.

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