Chalking on public sidewalks is protected speech, according to Minnesota ACLU settlement

  • Article by: Randy Furst , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 10, 2013 - 10:22 AM

A woman who printed an antiwar slogan outside a Minneapolis federal building had the legal right to do so, according to a settlement.

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jimjimjimjimOct. 8, 13 9:36 PM

Defacing public property is a crime. Erasable or not. Apparently it is OK to deface public buildings as well as long as it washes off. Liberalism is a religion. We need to demand separation of church and State.

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tcatheartOct. 8, 1310:13 PM

@jim, she didn't write on the building, she wrote on the sidewalk. Do you consider children writing with chalk on driveways/sidewalks to be "defacing" them?

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raleighmamaOct. 8, 1310:37 PM

She has the right to chalk the sidewalk, and the property owners (government) has the right to get a no trespassing order against her. Sounds like a win-win all around.

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haldavisOct. 8, 1311:49 PM

Hopscotchers everywhere are safe.

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lenny7Oct. 9, 1312:23 AM

I assume she just won the right to chalk the sidewalk, but the City retains the right to hose it down soon thereafter.

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flogicOct. 9, 1312:45 AM

What a joke, the city settles stuff like this because it is simply cheaper to do. None of these parties can say this is protected behavior by the first amendment.

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snickelodeonOct. 9, 13 2:30 PM

I'm a big fan of free speech and appalled at government overreach, but this settlement was a bad idea. If chalking sidewalks is protected speech as long as the chalk can be erased, presumably one should be able to chalk any public property. That would include the sides of public buildings, benches or shelters at transit stops, the tile on the floor of county government centers, you name it. As long as the chalk (or other substance used for writing) is erasable, no permanent physical harm is done, and there is no immediate threat to public safety, I see little difference between using a sidewalk or any other public property to communicate a message. And, if government can't restrict or regulate this activity, what about city ordinances that prohibit marketers from posting their ubiquitous signs along freeway ramps and in other public spaces -- for diet plans, dating services, get-rich-quick schemes, etc? Or ordinances that seek to prevent trees and telephone poles from becoming kiosks for a variety of political and commercial messages. The signs are, after all, removable, probably with less effort than hosing down a sidewalk. This is nonsense. As a society, we have the right to keep our sidewalks, streets, and other property we all share, free of visual pollution. What's ironic is, activist Hill is apparently free to chalk the sidewalk outside my house with any message that pleases her -- why not, it's public property. Yet, if I want to put a sign on my front lawn that says "support our troops" or "puppies for sale," the size and height of the sign is restricted by city ordinance. Actually, I believe it should be. Society has rights, too, Ms. Hill. I typically support the ACLU, but this is an overreach by free speech advocates.

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ericbwooOct. 10, 13 1:07 PM

It's true she could chalk outside your house, but then you'd have to wonder what would have driven her to want to make a statement there.

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