(CN) – Circus protesters will get another chance to argue that their First Amendment rights were violated when police broke up their gathering outside a performance by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus thanks to a new ruling by the 2nd Circuit.
Lisa Zalaski said that in 2006, police officers pushed demonstrators from their spot 30-40 feet away from The Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., where the circus was performing, to an entrance to another location 100 feet away.
Police then arrested nine protesters, who were charged with inciting a riot, breach of the peace, interfering with police officers and criminal trespass. They each had to pay $35 plus court costs.
Zalaski was not arrested because she and two other demonstrators bought tickets to the circus. They were allowed to protest for an hour, five feet from the arena entrance.
Zalaski sued for a restraining order to protect her First Amendment rights. The trial court ruled in favor of the city, holding that a distance of 80 feet from the arena was a content-neutral solution.
However, the judges of the New York City-based 2nd Circuit reversed the ruling in a per-curiam decision. They decided that the lower court did not do an extensive enough analysis of the venue’s status as a public forum.
“We remand to the district court, which should undertake a comprehensive public forum analysis, so the drastic device of summary judgment is not precipitously imposed,” the judges wrote.