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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Giant Rat Is Protected, Union Says

AUSTIN (CN) - Union members say the City of Kyle violated the Constitution by threatening to arrest them for erecting a giant, inflatable rat on a public road. Sheet Metal Workers Local 67 says the rat is protected symbolic speech, protesting substandard wages being paid for construction of Seton Medical Center - Kyle.

The union says Lott Brothers Construction, the general contractor for the hospital project, hired subcontractor Cobb Mechanical, which pays substandard wages. After Lott officials protested the protesters' rat, and photographed it, Kyle building official Mario Perez appeared and demanded a permit for the rat. Upon being asked how one applied for such a permit, Perez told the protesters to go to City Hall, but not to bother, because he would deny it.

Defendants Police Officer Hernandez then threatened to arrest the protesters, so they deflated the rat. They say the ordinance applies only to "permanent signs," that the defendants manner of enforcement violated the ordinance, which contains an invalid clause stating that the ordinance does not violate the First Amendment.: Plaintiffs want declaratory relief, an injunction and costs. They are represented by David Van Os.

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