Two Wisconsin residents are suing a town there for banning the display of the American flag and other signs on a highway overpass.
The Thomas More Law Center, acting on behalf of Nicholas Newman and Gregory Luce, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the town of Campbell, Wisc., for prohibiting citizens “from displaying the American flag and wearing t-shirts which call for the impeachment of President Obama on a highway overpass,” according to a press release from the law firm.
The Thomas More Law Center contends that the town enacted an ordinance on Oct. 8, 2013, “in response to some angry calls about the ‘Impeach Obama’ expression on the t-shirts and the resulting media attention.”
The ordinance is identified as “9.12,” a likely spoof on the national tea party movement known as “The 9-12 Project,” founded by media personality Glenn Beck.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of Thomas More Law Center, said in a statement:
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that a bedrock principle of the First Amendment is that government cannot ban the expression of ideas just because some find it offensive. In fact, the Supreme Court has allowed the burning of the American flag on the grounds that it is matter of free expression.
“So I’m astonished that the town of Campbell and the police department think it can ban a citizen from displaying the American flag.”
The men were taking part in a nationwide movement called “Overpasses for America,” which began in the summer of 2013.
Demonstrations held prior to the ordinance had occurred “without incident, or any traffic accidents attributable to their display of messages,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Newman appeared on the overpass on Oct. 27, 2013 carrying an American flag and was issued a citation, which carries a fine of $139.00.
The Thomas More Law Center pointed out that the pedestrian overpass in question is a sidewalk with a fence on either side, and the courts have long recognized sidewalks as traditional public forums.
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