Wisconsin town sued for banning display of American flag on overpasses

Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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The town of Campbell, Wis., is facing a federal lawsuit challenging ordinance 9.12, which bans the display of banners or flags on or near the town’s pedestrian overpass.

Demonstrators began using the overpass in August 2013 to call for President Obama’s impeachment and to display patriotism. After a gathering in October angered local citizens and garnered media attention, the Town of Campbell passed the ordinance, which prohibits the display of signs, flags or banners within 100 feet of the overpass.

On Oct. 24, Gregory Luce and a few supporters, wearing T-shirts that collectively spelled out “IMPEACH OBAMA,” were ordered by a policeman to leave the overpass or be issued a citation. They left as ordered. Three days, later Nicholas Newman was issued a $139 citation for displaying an American flag.

The Thomas More Law Center announced Monday it has filed the suit on behalf of Luce and Newman, on the grounds that their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly have been violated, and that the ordinance itself is blatantly unconstitutional.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that a bedrock principle of the First Amendment is that government cannot ban the expression of ideas just because some find it offensive,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center. “In fact, the Supreme Court has allowed the burning of the American Flag on the grounds that it is a matter of free expression. So I’m astonished that the Town of Campbell and the police department think it can ban a citizen from displaying the American Flag.”

Luce and Newman were participating in a nationwide movement called “Overpasses for America,” which calls for the president’s impeachment and the removal of members of Congress who “disregard the constitution” and “engage in crony capitalism.”

The town of Campbell did not respond to a request for comment.