October 18, 2000


DETROIT--The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and National Lawyer's Guild today filed a motion to dismiss charges against 13 protesters for wearing Lone Ranger masks during a June demonstration protesting air quality in downtown Detroit.

The defendants were arrested while peacefully protesting in downtown Detroit and charged with violating a Michigan law that restricts the wearing of masks to entertainment, educational, religious and historical purposes only.

"This law is clearly unconstitutional because it infringes on the rights of people to protest peacefully, said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan.

"Under this law, it does not matter whether the mask is worn as part of expression of a political message alone, or if it is worn with the intent to commit an illegal act," said Moss. "The law makes no distinction and criminalizes an act of political expression."

In legal papers, the ACLU asserts that the law is vague and in violation of the First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

As ACLU Cooperating Attorney Kenneth Mogill noted, "the First Amendment is not confined to verbal utterances; the Supreme Court has confirmed again and again that symbolic speech is equally protected."

"This extends to the right to anonymity if a citizen so chooses. As the Supreme court stated in NAACP vs. Alabama, 'Inviolability of privacy in group association may in circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs,'" he added.

A hearing has been set for Wednesday, October 25, in the 36th District Court before Judge Paula G. Humphries.

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