November 20, 2012

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ST. LOUIS, MO — Sunday, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a suit against the City of Poplar Bluff for an unconstitutional ordinance regarding the distribution of handbills without a permit and advance written consent of the operators of each vehicle. The ACLU is representing Brian Becker, who feared arrest after distributing handbills opposing a local $20 million bond initiative for sewer upgrades.

Earlier this month, a Poplar Bluff Police Department officer cited Becker for placing handbills on vehicles without a permit. The officer also wanted to know who provided the handbills, but Becker declined to answer. A Poplar Bluff officer went to the local Office Depot, but employees refused to voluntarily turn over any records regarding who had printed the handbills. Later that evening, an officer with a warrant seized a note with the name and cell phone number of the person who copied the handbills, a receipt, two proofs of the handbills and a thumb drive with digital images of the original handbill design.

“We are challenging this ordinance to make sure that our client and others can freely express their opinions in ways protected by the First Amendment, without fear of fines or arrest,” says Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU-EM.

The ACLU-EM is a non-partisan, not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of civil liberties in eastern Missouri. Located in St. Louis, the ACLU-EM is an affiliate of the national ACLU.

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