U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt issued a temporary restraining order last week limiting enforcement of the city's so-called Super Bowl "Clean Zone," which prohibits nonsanctioned signs and banners in and around the Central Business District from Monday, Jan. 28, to Tuesday, Feb. 5. The restraining order was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, which claimed the zone ordinance is unconstitutional.
The ACLU originally sought a restraining order halting all Clean Zone enforcement, but Engelhardt chose instead to shrink the area in which the city may enforce the new rule. Enforcement will be allowed only in areas directly around the Superdome.
The ordinance, passed by the New Orleans City Council in early December 2012, bans "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.
"Even the Super Bowl isn't an excuse to suspend the First Amendment," Marjorie R. Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said in a statement. City officials interpret the ordinance differently, characterizing it as 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," Mayor Mitch Landrieu's spokesman Ryan Berni wrote in an emailed statement. "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." — Charles Maldonado