AKRON, Ohio (CN) – Brimfield Township and its zoning inspector violated the First Amendment rights of a sheet metal workers’ union by ordering it to take down an inflatable rat balloon, the union alleges in Federal Court.
Sheet Metal Workers International Association, Local Union No. 33 placed the inflatable rat along State Route 43, to protest certain contractors working at an adjacent construction site.
“The rat has long been used as a symbol to protest unfair labor practices and constitutes protected symbolic speech,” the lawsuit explains.
The Brimfield police allegedly threatened to confiscate the rat, and ordered the union to leave the area.
The union says it beseeched the Portage County prosecuting attorney to protect its rights by intervening with Brimfield officials. On July 28, it again stationed the rat near the highway.
The union claims it deflated the rat under threats of criminal prosecution and zoning fines.
It seeks an injunction barring the defendants from interfering in the union’s right to peacefully protest.
Local 33 is represented by Cosme, D’Angelo & Szollosi Co. LPA of Toledo.