Thursday, January 24, 2013

ACLU sues city over Super Bowl "Clean Zone" UPDATE: Judge grants temporary restraining order, city can only enforce signage bans directly around Superdome

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Update (4:30 p.m.): U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt granted in part a temporary restraining order, banning the enforcement of Clean Zone provisions banning non-sanctioned signs and banners. Engelhardt's order, however, does not apply to areas directly around the Superdome. Thus, the Clean Zone, which once roughly extended from Earhart Boulevard to Port Street, and Broad Street to the West Bank levee, an area that looks like a wolf...

SuperWolfCleanZone.jpg

...will now only be in effect here, per Engelhardt's order:

The area bounded by Earhart Boulevard to Loyola Avenue; Loyola Avenue to Tulane Avenue; Tulane Avenue to North Broad; and North Broad to Earhart Boulevard; and including the Louisiana Superdome Property (Champion Square), and the New Orleans Arena.

[Original story]
The ACLU today filed suit against the city of New Orleans seeking a halt to the implementation of the so-called "Clean Zone," set to go into effect on Monday, Jan. 28. The city's Clean Zone ordinance, passed by City Council in early December, bans signs, "inflatables, cold air balloons, banners, pennants, flags, building wraps, A-frame signs, projected image signs, electronic variable message signs" except for those sanctioned by the city and the National Football League in the Central Business District and surrounding areas until Feb. 5, two days after the game.

The ACLU alleges that these provisions of the law are unconstitutional.

(More after the jump)

"Even the Super Bowl isn’t an excuse to suspend the First Amendment," said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman in a statement. "The founders of our country didn’t intend our rights to be suspended for a football game."

The organization is suing the city on behalf of Tara Jill Ciccarone, a member of Occupy NOLA, which plans to display non-sanctioned signs and banners within the area in question during the restricted period, and Pastor Troy Bohn of Raven Ministries, a group that preaches in the French Quarter, also with the use of non-NFL-sanctioned signs. Raven members were arrested last year under the city's "aggressive solicitation" ordinance, which banned religious and political speech on Bourbon Street between dusk and dawn. The city is not currently enforcing that law pending the outcome of another lawsuit.

Both Ciccarone and Bohn fear arrest for their activities because of the law. The ACLU is seeking an immediate temporary restraining order against the law, followed by a permanent injunction against it.

City officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Update (5:30 p.m.): In an emailed statement, mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni said the ordinance is only a temporary quality of life measure.

"We disagree with the ACLU’s characterization of the Clean Zone. The Clean Zone addresses issues such as signage, outdoor vending and erecting structures and tents that the City already permits. It is an additional temporary designation that seeks to protect the quality of life for residents and assists businesses in thriving during the Super Bowl. The City and other cities nationwide have instituted 'clean zones' for similar major events."

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