2 Words for Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the National Football League: Our Streets
“Your Tax Dollars Working to Help the Rich Get Richer”
“Super Bowl XLVII – Sponsored by Corporate Greed”
Under the Clean Zone Ordinance and Guide established by the City of New Orleans, holding banners and signs with the above slogans in the Clean Zone during Super Bowl week would have been prohibited and punishable by a $500 fine and 6 months in jail.
Because no members of Occupy The Stage (or Occupy NOLA) are official NFL sponsors, and none of our proposed signs, flags, or banners contain any NFL branding, one of us asked the Court to intervene preenforcement and protect the First Amendment Rights of the citizens of New Orleans.
Occupy The Stage refused to stand by and watch this violation of citizens' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Moreover, the Clean Zone, which included most of the CBD, all of the French Quarter, most of the Marigny and many of the surrounding neighborhoods is traditionally a public forum. The streets, along Mayor Mitch Landrieu's imaginary "Verizon Super Bowl Boulevard," belong to the people of New Orleans. The City, through the Clean Zone Ordinance and Guide, had effectively established two classes of speech: permitted NFL-branded speech and excluded non-NFL-branded speech. This censorship was simply unacceptable. Moreover, the Supreme Court has noted, “the loss of First Amendment freedoms, even for minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976). The National Football League's attempt to control the content of signs and other public media in the Clean Zone is not in the public interest, despite Mayor Landrieu's claim that Clean Zone Ordinances will enhance the quality of life.
Members of OTS discussed the Clean Zone's obvious violation of our First Amendment rights at an Occupy NOLA General Assembly; we proposed outreach and action, including making our own mobile signs in the form of T-shirts since mobile signage attached to one's person is prohibited in the Clean Zone. We stenciled, cut, painted, and wore our "This Shirt Is Illegal" T-shirts, spreading awareness about the Clean Zone regulations.
After attending a community meeting about zoning, one of our members got in contact with the ACLU, eager to discuss this obvious violation of the right to free speech.
A PRAYER FOR RELIEF
Thanks to a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana behalf of an Occupy activist and a street preacher, on January 24, U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt granted in part a temporary restraining order.
The Clean Zone just got smaller.
The TRO limits the Clean Zone to an area near the Superdome, where the game will be played Feb. 3. Banners, flags and signs without NFL branding are permitted in the French Quarter, the Marigny, and the whole CBD south of Loyola.
"Even the Super Bowl isn’t an excuse to suspend the First Amendment," said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman in a statement. "The founders of our country didn’t intend our rights to be suspended for a football game" The Gambit reporter Charles Maldonado quotes in ACLU sues city over Super Bowl "Clean Zone" UPDATE: Judge grants temporary restraining order, city can only enforce signage bans directly around Superdome.
Below is the press release from the ACLU regarding the plaintiffs.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2012
NEW ORLEANS — On behalf of Tara Ciccarone and Pastor Troy Bohn, today the ACLU of Louisiana sought an order to block enforcement of the "Clean Zone" enacted as part of the preparations for the Super Bowl. The plaintiffs seek to engage in constitutionally protected speech that is barred by this ordinance, adopted by the City of New Orleans at the behest of the NFL.
The "Clean Zone" establishes an area of New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny, and the Central Business District, where between January 28th and February 3rd the following prohibitions apply:
Inflatables, cold air balloons, banners, pennants, flags, building wraps, A-frame signs, projected image signs, electronic variable message signs, and light emitting diode signs of any kind shall be prohibited except for those sanctioned or authorized by the City,
General and mobile advertising (including, but not limited to, signs on or attached to a vehicle, portable device or person) shall be prohibited except for promotional displays sanctioned or authorized by the City (consisting of at least 60% Super Bowl/NFL branding, look and feel, and no more than 40% third party commercial identification) and by the National Football League (NFL), including, but not limited to, those placed on existing public utility poles.
Anyone – business or individual – who wishes to display such signs, flags, banners or other items must apply for a permit, and only official NFL sponsors may apply. Additionally, any such sign, banner or flag must "consist of at least 60% Super Bowl/NFL branding, look and feel, and no more than 40% third party commercial identification."
In other words, within the "Clean Zone" nobody can fly a flag of any kind - Mardi Gras, American flag, Louisiana flag, LSU flag - and simple signs such as "Restrooms for Customers Only", "Buy your King Cake here," or "Roger Goodell will not be served here" are forbidden unless the speaker is an NFL sponsor; the NFL and the City approve the message; and the content is at least 60% NFL branding.
Tara Ciccarone, a member of the Occupy group, plans to display signs and billboards with political messages in the French Quarter and the CBD during the Super Bowl. Among them are signs saying "Money is not more important than constitutional rights, despite what Clean Zone would indicate," and "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech..." Pastor Bohn, of Raven Ministries, regularly preaches on Bourbon Street. He and his congregation wear t-shirts and carry signs that read "I Love Jesus," "Ask Me How Jesus Changed My Life," or similar messages, and carry a large cross emblazoned with the words "Raven Street Church." All of these messages are prohibited by the "Clean Zone" ordinance.
"Even the Super Bowl isn’t an excuse to suspend the First Amendment," said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman. "The founders of our country didn’t intend our rights to be suspended for a football game."
While the ACLU’s immediate lawsuit concerns only noncommercial speech, the organization is concerned about the Clean Zone’s commercial implications as well. The "Clean Zone" forbids real estate "for sale" signs, and temporary advertisements on vehicles such as taxi cabs and food delivery cars. Esman continued: "Businesses have the right to promote themselves. If our local businesses are to benefit from the many visitors we expect, they must be able to inform customers of their offerings. Prohibiting stores from telling people they sell king cakes, or posting 'for sale' signs at properties, will hurt New Orleans businesses and deprive our visitors of the many options we have for them."
The ACLU of Louisiana’s suit against the City of New Orleans was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans. Copies of the Complaint and related documents are linked below.
Ciccarone et al v. New Orleans – Complaint
Ciccarone et al v. New Orleans – Memorandum for TRO
Ciccarone et al v. New Orleans – Exhibit 1 – Ordinance
Ciccarone et al v. New Orleans – Exhibit 2 – Guide
This is a big victory, but not a complete one.
There is more at stake, including:
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Unfair Restrictions on Taxi Drivers
Mardi Gras Krewes Losing Money Due to Super Bowl!
The thousands of dollars some Mardi Gras krewes are losing because Mayor Landrieu has “asked” them to parade a week early so that “the focus stays on football", and the $300 million renovation Michael Patrick Welch describes in "How the Super Bowl Screws New Orleans"
6 Million Tax Dollars at Work!
Even more disturbing is the 6 Million Louisiana tax dollars that were spent by the Super Bowl Host Committee to divert attention away from New Orleans' problems and make sure the world sees NFL branding. "In order to fulfill all of the obligations of the bid, the Host Committee needs to raise $12 Million through public and private sources; $6 Million publicly from the State of Louisiana, and $6 Million through private corporation sponsorship." ~ New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee
The Host Committee explains that a portion of this money will be spend on "Recruiting and managing 8500 volunteers [UNPAID WORKERS] for Super Bowl week" Call the here: 504-525-5678
NFL's non-profit status
Despite the fact that it is a $9Billion/Year Industry, the NFL Commissioner and Owners continue to enjoy status as a non-profit organization.
Petitioning Congress Congress: Revoke the Tax-Exempt Status of the National Football League
Please Contact Us if you are interested in raising awareness about these issues!
~ Occupy The Stage