NYCLU Challenges NYPD Policy Barring Leafleting and Petitioning On Sidewalks Near Public Schools
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK – Acting on behalf of a youth advocacy group, the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan challenging a police department policy that prohibits groups and individuals from engaging in peaceful First Amendment activity — including leafleting, petitioning, and picketing — on public sidewalks in front of city schools.
“Not only is the police department policy unconstitutional, it sends a terrible message to young people, who for the first time in their lives may be participating in advocacy and then end up being threatened with arrest,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn.
Under the policy, which has apparently been in place for years, young people have been arrested for handing out literature, and many groups and individuals have been forced by police officers to leave public sidewalks under threat of arrest.
The NYCLU filed today’s lawsuit on behalf of the Ya-Ya Network, a not-for-profit organization of young people who engage in advocacy on behalf of teenagers and young adults. The group is in the midst of a campaign to distribute informational flyers and forms on public sidewalks at New York City high schools about the rights of students to “opt-out” of ongoing efforts by the United States military to obtain student information from schools for military-recruitment purposes.
According to the lawsuit, Ya-Ya Network members have been forced from public sidewalks near three Manhattan high schools in the last eight days, and last spring a Ya-Ya Network staff member was arrested at a high school in Brooklyn for handing out flyers for another youth group about AIDS/HIV issues.
“Public sidewalks outside schools are an important place for students to give and receive information, and the First Amendment fully protects the right of New Yorkers to use these sidewalks for peaceful advocacy,” Dunn said. “We will ask the City to revoke this policy immediately. If it does not do so, we will seek an immediate court order.”
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.
The Latest in Free Speech
Sasha Colby Is Winning in More Ways Than One
Southern Utah Drag Stars File Lawsuit Challenging the City of St. George’s Censorship of Drag Performances
ACLU Commends Supreme Court Decisions Allowing Free Speech Online to Flourish
ACLU Slams Montana's Unconstitutional TikTok Ban as Governor Signs Law
The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
Learn More About Free Speech
Protecting free speech means protecting a free press, the democratic process, diversity of thought, and so much more. The ACLU has worked since 1920 to ensure that freedom of speech is protected for everyone.