Judge: La. woman can flip finger in holiday lights
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana woman ran afoul of police when she gave her neighbors an unusual holiday greeting, hanging Christmas lights in the shape of a middle finger.
Sarah Childs was in a dispute with some of her neighbors in Denham Springs, just east of Baton Rouge, so she decided to send a message with her decorations. Neighbors complained and police threatened to arrest her, so she and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sued the city.
A judge ruled in her favor Thursday.
"I imagine it will be back up before too long," ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman said of the display.
Childs erected the lights on her roof last month. She has removed them twice — once after a police officer told her she could be fined and again after another officer threatened to arrest her, her lawsuit said.
U.S. District Judge James Brady issued an order temporarily barring city officials from interfering with the display. The two-page order said the city's "continued efforts" to prevent Childs from displaying her holiday lights will violate her rights to free speech and due process. He scheduled a Jan. 7 hearing in Baton Rouge.
Denham Springs attorney Paeton Burkett said the city will comply with Brady's order, but she declined to comment on the lawsuit.
"We're going to sit down with everybody involved and see if there's any merit to it," she said.
Mayor Jimmy Durbin and Police Chief Scott Jones, who are named as defendants, didn't immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
The suit said the police department dispatched an officer to Childs' home after several neighbors complained directly to the mayor. The officer told Childs she would be violating the city's "obscenity statute" and could be fined if she didn't take it down, according to the lawsuit. However, Denham Springs doesn't have an obscenity statute, the suit said.
Childs removed the lights but put them back up after the ACLU defended her in an open letter to the city. That time, the display showed two hands with extended middle fingers.
After another round of complaints, the city responded with a "collateral attack," issuing her two tickets, according to the suit. One accused her of obstructing the flow of traffic as she walked down the side of a street. Another ticket accused her of disturbing the peace while singing an impromptu song about her neighborhood dispute while standing in her driveway.
"Childs' impromptu song allegedly contained some obscenities directed at her neighbors, so the city cited her for simple assault," the suit said.
The ACLU would not say exactly what the neighborhood dispute was about, and a no one answered at a telephone listing for Childs.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.