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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Enjoins ‘Super Bowl Clean Zone’

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A federal judge restrained New Orleans from enforcing its "Super Bowl Clean Zone" law, restricting signs and banners during Super Bowl week.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt issued his order in response to a lawsuit filed last week by an Occupy NOLA protester and a pastor who preaches on Bourbon Street.

Tara Jill Ciccarone and the Rev. Troy Bohn sued the city over its "Super Bowl Clean Zone" ordinance.

The city enacted the Clean Zone law on Dec. 6, to restrict signs throughout most of downtown and the French Quarter from Jan. 28 to Feb. 5. Violations were punishable by a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.

Ciccarone and Bohn claimed the law would interfere with their constitutionally protected speech.

The ordinance barred "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 ... or by the National Football League."

Ciccarone claimed that she and other Occupy NOLA protesters plan to demonstrate around Jackson Square with signs such as "Money is not more important than constitutional rights, despite what Clean Zone would indicate," and "Your Tax Dollars Working to Help the Rich Get Richer."

"Ciccarone also plans a 'human billboard' operation in which she and several other Occupy members will stand side-by-side at various places in the Clean Zone, holding signs with ten-word messages about various political, social and economic problems in Louisiana and directing readers to online sources of additional information," according to the complaint.

"Because Ciccarone and the other Occupy members fear arrest, fines and incarceration, they are considering not undertaking their protest activities."

Bohn, of Kenner, La., and his congregation regularly preach on Bourbon Street, carrying crosses and signs such as "I Love Jesus" and "Ask Me How Jesus Changed My Life."

"[Bohn] travels to New Orleans approximately three times a week for that purpose and fully intends to do so during the effective period of the Clean Zone Ordinance," he said in the complaint.

They claimed that the city violated the Constitution "by vesting unbridled discretion in a private entity - the National Football League - to control the content of signs and other public media in the Clean Zone."

Judge Engelhardt found that "plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success that this likely infringement is impermissible under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Ciccarone and Bohn are represented by Justin Harrison of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana and Alysson Mills with Fishman Haygood in New Orleans.

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