We are writing to urge you to send an email letter today that can make a big difference in the outcome of a free speech fight that is vital to all grassroots movements that support social justice and peace.
All across the country people and organizations engaged in producing and disseminating leaflets and posters – the classic method of grassroots outreach used by those without institutional power and corporate money – are being faced with bankrupting fines.
This has been happening with ferocity in the nation’s capital ever since the ANSWER Coalition was fined over $50,000 in the span of a few weeks for posters advertising the Sept. 15, 2007, protest against the Iraq war.
Attorneys for the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) filed a major lawsuit in August 2007 against the unconstitutional postering regulations in Washington, D.C.
“The District has employed an illegal system that creates a hierarchy of speech, favoring the speech of politicians and punishing grassroots outreach,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the PCJF, stated in explaining a basic tenet of the lawsuit. “It's time for that system to end, and it will.”
The hard-fought four-year-long lawsuit filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund against Washington, D.C.’s unconstitutional postering regulations has succeeded in achieving a number of important victories, including the issuance of new regulations after the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia warned just last month of an impending declaration of unconstitutionality against the District.
In July 2011 the federal District Court issued a preliminary opinion regarding one aspect of our lawsuit and suggested that the D.C. government “revise the regulations to include a single, across-the-board durational restriction that applies equally to all viewpoints and subject matters.”
But this battle is not finished. The new regulations still contain dissent-crushing “strict liability” provisions (explained below) and remain unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous. Plus the District has never withdrawn the tens of thousands of dollars of fines against ANSWER.
The District of Columbia is required by law to open the new rules to public comment, which it has done with an extremely short comment period that is now open. We need people to send a comment today to the government of Washington, D.C. It just takes a minute using our online Submit a Comment tool, which will send your comment by email.
Send a letter today in support of the right to produce and disseminate leaflets and posters in Washington, D.C. We have included a sample comment but we encourage people to use or add your own language.
An Opportunity for You to Make a Difference
In response to our lawsuit, the District of Columbia has now issued “Emergency Regulations” replacing the current system which the city now admits are a “threat to the public welfare,” after the court issued a preliminary opinion that agreed with a basic argument of the lawsuit.
This is an important moment and we need you and others who believe in Free Speech to weigh in during the short 15-day public comment period in response to the proposed Emergency Regulations for postering. Submit an online Comment now that makes one or more of three vital points:
- Drop the $70,000 fines that have been applied to the ANSWER Coalition for anti-war posters during the past four years.
- End “Strict Liability” fines and penalities. Strict Liability constitutes something of a death penalty for Free Speech activities such as producing leaflets and posters. It means that an organization referenced on posted signs can be held “strictly liable” for any materials alleged to be improperly posted, even if the group never even posted a single sign or poster. The D.C. government is even going further than that – it just levied fines against a disabled Vietnam veteran who didn’t put up a single poster but was fined $450 because three posted signs were seen referencing a Veterans for Peace demonstration last December, and the District’s enforcement agents researched that his name was on the permit application for the peace demonstration at the White House. Any group or person that leaves literature at a bookstore, or distributes literature, or posts .pdf fliers on the Internet, can be fined tens of thousands of dollars simply for having done nothing more than making political literature available.
- Insist that any new regulations be clear, unambiguous and fair. The District’s new “Emergency” Regulations are still inadequate because they are vague and ambiguous. Vaguely worded regulations in the hands of vindictive authority can and will be used to punish, penalize and fine grassroots organizations that seek to redress grievances while allowing the powerful and moneyed interests to do as they please. The District’s postering regulations must be clear and unambiguous if they are to be fair, uniform and constitutional.
Thank you for your continued support. After you send your comment today to the District of Columbia please send this email to your friends and encourage them to take action as well. Click here to send your comment to the District.