NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The city of New Orleans must scale back its plans for a "clean zone" where the use of banners, signs and flags would be restricted during Super Bowl week, a federal judge said Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt's temporary restraining order says the city can only enforce the limits in an area near the Superdome, where the game will be played Feb. 3. The city had also planned to enforce the rules in the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods.
The judge's ruling comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an activist and a street preacher. They claimed a new city ordinance and a code enforcement guide trample on their free speech rights and limit their activities leading up to the title game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
The ACLU asserts New Orleans adopted the new policies at the behest of the National Football League.
"The NFL asked them to do a whole bunch of things, including this," said ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman.
Esman said other Super Bowl host cities have enforced similar rules in recent years, but they have never been challenged in court before.
Engelhardt's order says the plaintiffs showed a "likelihood of success" in arguing that enforcing a broader "clean zone" is impermissible under the First Amendment. He scheduled a meeting Monday with lawyers for the city and ACLU to discuss the latter's request for a preliminary injunction.
"It's wonderful that the judge recognizes the city doesn't have a right to curtail speech throughout a large chunk of the city," Esman said.
The city, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas are named as defendants in the suit.
"We disagree with the ACLU's characterization of the Clean Zone," said Ryan Berni, spokesman for the mayor. "The Clean Zone addresses issues such as signage, outdoor vending and erecting structures and tents that the City already permits. It is an additional temporary designation that seeks to protect the quality of life for residents and assists businesses in thriving during the Super Bowl. The City and other cities nationwide have instituted 'clean zones' for similar major events."
New Orleans planned for its measure to take effect on the morning of Jan. 28 and end on the evening of Feb. 5.
The ordinance, passed last month, says banners, flags and signs aren't allowed in the "clean zone" without the authorization of the city or the NFL. The content of any temporary signs approved by the city must consist of at least 60 percent Super Bowl or NFL branding. The guide, meanwhile, says no signs will be permitted unless the applicant is an NFL sponsor, the suit says.
The plaintiffs are Tara Jill Ciccarone, an Occupy NOLA member, and Troy Bohn, pastor of a religious congregation that regularly preaches on Bourbon Street.
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
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.
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.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.