Suburban Milwaukee mall to allow protest and petition gathering on public sidewalks, drop citations
Post by Christie Taylor on 5/30/2012 2:00pm
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin declared victory for protest and petition gathering on public sidewalks Tuesday after the City of Glendale and the Bayshore Town Center Mall agreed to dismiss citations against two citizens and henceforth allow demonstrations on publicly owned sidewalks surrounding the perimeter of the mall.
First Amendment rights apply to demonstrations on public property, including sidewalks, but the mall had previously treated the perimeter of its property as private: management sent security to remove those protesting business practices and collecting recall petition signatures.
The mall, which is a cluster of retailers rather than a single building, does have privately owned sidewalks traversing the interior of the property. But Milwaukee resident Lincoln Rice, who was protesting business practices of the Trader Joe's on the corner of Silver Spring Drive and Port Washington Road, was arrested and issued a trespassing citation while on a public sidewalk. The same goes for Jeffrey Perzan, who was repeatedly ordered to move and threatened with arrest while collecting recall petition signatures along Port Washington Road, also public property.
Although the ACLU wrote a letter to the mall management in December stating that the perimeter sidewalks were no different from other public sidewalks, the release said, Perzan was again asked to move when he appeared to collect petitions in January.
“Every court to consider the question has said technical ownership doesn’t convert a public sidewalk into a no-protest zone,” said ACLU legal director Larry Dupuis in a December news release. “These sidewalks connect to public sidewalks in all directions and have bus stops and other features that mark them as public pedestrian thoroughfares.”
As of Tuesday, following negotiation with ACLU and Milwaukee attorneys, the mall has to allow political speech on perimeter sidewalks, “as long as it is peaceful, and does not in any way disrupt access, or impede public health, welfare or safety,” the release said. The City of Glendale will also drop all citations against the individuals.
“This is a victory for the most basic form of free speech,” said ACLU attorney Jim Gramling. “Sidewalks and parks are places where people traditionally have exchanged ideas and tried to persuade their neighbors to adopt their views. And unlike other forums for expression, like television or the radio, they can be used without charge, so anyone, rich or poor, can seek an audience there.”
Disclosure: ACLU of Wisconsin Communications Director Stacy Harbaugh sits on dane101’s Board of Directors.
Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at email@example.com.