Last month, the Examiner reported that the group "Overpasses for Obama's Impeachment" in Campbell, Wisconsin, was banned from protesting on the public overpasses for concerns of "safety." After several attempts to reason with town officials, the patriot group plans to hold a rally at the public overpass, as well as at town hall tomorrow, in defiance of the ordinance.
The ordinance, that was clearly targeting the Overpasses group, forbids "sign[s], flags, banners, pennants, streamers, balloons or any other similar item" on "any portion of a vehicular or pedestrian bridge or overpass" or "within one hundred (100) feet of any portion of a vehicular or pedestrian bridge or overpass."
After the ordinance passed, a protester received a $132 fine for displaying an American flag.
Not surprisingly, the group did not take too kindly upon the clear violation of their First Amendment rights and, along with members of the La Crosse Tea Party, they are fighting back. After numerous requests were made to rescind the unlawful ordinance, including a spirited debate at a recent town meeting (click on the video to watch), an attorney representing the Tea Party asked the town to rescind the ordinance in a letter, which explained in part,
"The Town of Campbell in its meeting stated that the reason for the ordinance was to protect public safety. However, while public safety is an important government interest, waving an American flag does not seem to create any safety issues. The highway drivers are accustomed to seeing billboards. Those advertisers are trying to draw attention to their signs much the same way that protesters or demonstrators want to draw attention to something."
The council blew it off.
Jerry Miller is an Overpasses group leader for the La Crosse, WI area, as well as one of the four state leaders. He spoke with Mike Hayes on the local radio station WIZM today about the town ordinance and Saturday's rally. Miller noted that the overpass is a "public walkway," and believes that the ordinance is unconstitutional. He noted that protests have been "going on since the 60's."
Miller told the Examiner that "it's important that our rights are not infringed upon, especially when it comes to free speech." He continued to say,
"This may seem like not a big deal to some people, but if we allow small local government to get away with something like this, then it can spread to other towns/cities like a cancer. This has gained national attention, and they will be paying attention to what happens here in our small community. If we don't stand up for our rights, ...[other towns will] try to do the same thing. But if we fight this with all means necessary, they will take notice."
The Examiner spoke with Rob Haines, one of the state leaders for the Overpasses group who said,
"Its time that we fight to save America and our Constitutional Republic." He passionately said that the rally is being held to "defend our rights, our freedom, and our liberty at all levels of government....Enough is enough."
Greg Luce of the La Crosse Tea Party cited a quote from Benjamin Franklin, and said in part,
"We have to fight for our rights as free men if we want to keep them. There are always going to be authoritarians in government that would like to silence and control us."
Chris Muller is a concerned citizen who will be joining tomorrow's rally. In a letter to the editor at the La Crosse Tribune yesterday, he said in part,
"Town leaders recently passed an ordinance that blatantly and deliberately strips me of my First Amendment right to freedom of speech and assembly. As a result of this unlawful ordinance, I feel the need to protest by defying it."
Muller told Mike Hayes of WIZM today in part that the reason he is attending is because he is a
"Christian husband and father who wants to make sure that my kids grow up with the same freedoms that I had."
A public invitation has been posted on Facebook. The invitation says in part,
"As many of you know, on Oct 8 the Town of Campbell passed an ordinance restricting our right to free speech on the pedestrian overpass. This is in direct violation of our First Amendment rights, and we will fight this."