After officials in the small town of Campbell, Wisconsin banned the display of "sign, flags, banners, pennants, streamers, balloons or any other similar item" within 100 feet of a pedestrian overpass and walkway in October for "safety" purposes, engaged citizens came together to fight the rule.
The Thomas More Law Center filed a civil rights complaint against the town on behalf of Gregory Luce and Nicholas Newman in federal court a week ago.
Well intentioned or not, the ordinance seems to reek of politics, as reported at the Examiner in November. After all, there were no similar ordinances imposed on other groups who previously used the public walkway for their protests "since the 60's," as pointed out by Jerry Miller, an "Overpasses" group leader for the La Crosse, WI area, who spoke with Mike Hayes on the local radio station WIZM in December.
James Neighbors made the same point, citing other groups who have used the overpasses in the past, such as "pro-liberal groups, sports teams, and other organizations."
In December, Jerry Miller told the Examiner that this ordinance must be challenged.
He said in part,
"...if we allow small local government to get away with something like this, then it can spread to other towns/cities like a cancer."
A protest on the overpass was held in defiance of the ordinance in December, as reported at Liberty Unyielding. The protesters endured a below-zero degree wind chill.
Asked why he protested, Rob Haines, a state leader for the Overpasses group in Wisconsin said,
“I’m doing it for my kids and everyone else’s kids.”
The gentleman in the photo was fined under the new ordinance shortly after this picture was taken. Click on the video to watch the police officer's reaction when he was asked the question,
"You took an oath to protect the Constitution, did you not?"
The police officer agreed, but continued to say, "I'm just here doing my job."
Attorney for the Town of Campbell, Brent Smith, was quoted by the local ABC affiliate last week as saying in part,
"The first amendment, in these type of cases, it's a balance between the first amendment versus a safety concern..."
Neighbors doesn't buy it. He said that the fact that others have been historically free to use the public walkway for "identical activities clearly shows that the ordinance is agenda based."
Haines is confident that the ordinance will be overturned. He told the Examiner on Saturday that he feels in his heart that they "will have a victory..."
But it won't stop there.
"We win there, then we go around the country to fight other battles like this one."
Some engaged citizens did everything in their power to stop the officials from passing the ordinance. They went to town meetings and they posted videos of the proceeding online.
After the ordinance was passed, an attorney sent a letter sent to the town officials asking them to rescind it, as reported at the Examiner.
The letter went unanswered.