St. Paul,Minn.– The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against Hennepin Countyt oday on behalf of Occupy Minneapolis. The lawsuit argues that County’s new restrictions on the OccupyMPLS unconstitutionally restrict the demonstrators’ free speech rights. OccupyMPLS has been continuously “occupying” the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza since October 7, 2011 to express their frustration with the growing economic and political inequities in this country. Cooperating attorneys in the case are from the law firms of Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand and Leonard, Street and Deinard.
The complaint argues that the new “Procedures for Public Use of the Hennepin County Government Center” issued byHennepin County and certain unwritten procedures enforced by the County violate the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights because:
The rules were expressly created in response to OccupyMPLS, which is a content-based limitation on speech.
The rules put forth impermissible time, place and manner restrictions.
The rules are unconstitutionally overbroad.
The rules are a result of arbitrary and unconstitutional decision-making.
The unwritten procedures were designed to suppress Plaintiff’s speech and are inconsistent with how the County has treated other groups.
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The complaint, which provides details of the County’s restrictions on signage, chalking and access to electricity, as well as the demonstrators’ ability to stay warm during the winter months, asks the Court to declare that the “Procedures for Public Use of the Hennepin County Government Center” and certain unwritten procedures relating to chalk, electricity and use of structures are unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“The rules put forth by Hennepin County are particularly troubling because they were created as a direct response to OccupyMPLS,” stated Justin Perl, partner at Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand. “They were not based on any previous ordinances. The Constitution does not allow the government to just make up new rules as you go along in order to target a particular group.”
“In the United States, we have celebrated protestors occupying spaces around the globe during the Arab Spring, yet we are quick to criticize the Occupy Movement for utilizing some of the same methods of expression.” stated Charles Samuelson, executive Director of the ACLU-MN.
Plaintiffs include: Occupy Minneapolis and individuals Benjamin Egerman, Benjamin Painter, Samuel Richards, and Melissa Rowan. Plaintiffs are elected delegates of OccupyMPLS to represent their interest as an unincorporated political association.
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