Toledo Should Respect First Amendment

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
December 1, 2011 12:00 am

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ACLU Blasts Sign Ban, Issues Second Letter Asking City to Set Clear and Constitutional Rules for Public Demonstrations

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TOLEDO, OH- Following up on complaints from the Occupy Toledo movement about unclear city permit rules, The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has delivered a letter to the Toledo law director. The letter calls on the city to clearly define when permits are required for public demonstrations, how to apply for those permits and the criteria the city uses to approve or deny requests.

The letter also criticizes Toledo City Council’s decision to ban all signs from their chambers, and challenges the city to show more respect for the First Amendment.

“Toledo City Council had an opportunity to pass clear, consistent rules while also expanding free speech rights,” said ACLU of Ohio Staff Counsel Carrie Davis of the sign issue. “Instead they chose a path that is both disrespectful and patronizing to the voters they serve.”

“There must also be clear, consistent permit rules,” continued Davis. “But this is an issue that cannot simply be banned-away by city council. Decisions about permits for public demonstrations must be made by the rule of law, not at the whim of current city leaders, who seem intent on restraining free speech whenever possible.”

This is the second time in one month that citizen complaints have prompted the ACLU to send a letter to the city of Toledo. The first letter came after two people attempted to enter the council chambers with protest signs and were arrested, despite the fact that the city had no official sign policy. Council’s response to the letter was to pass legislation formally banning all signs from their chambers.

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