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A Michigan woman is suing her county over limiting her petition gathering to a 3-by-3-foot square of ground in a 135-acre park, a restriction one attorney said is in the running for the title of the "most unconstitutional [free] speech zone ever."
Earlier this summer, The Detroit News reports, Denise Miller sat at a picnic table near the beach at the Linden County Park in Genesee County, Mich., gathering signatures as part of a campaign to recall Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. A park ranger told her she had to leave, and the Genesee County Parks office later confirmed that she needed a permit to petition signatures within the park.
But after she applied for and received the permit, she discovered the parks office had limited her to a tiny "Freedom of Speech Area" that she says is located 20 feet from a remote corner of a parking lot and far from foot traffic.
Just in case she couldn't find the designated 3-by-3 foot zone, parks officials spray-painted an orange box in the grass to mark the spot.
Now the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in federal court, asking U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh to strike down both the ban on petitioning without a permit and the rule restricting petitioning to the "Freedom of Speech Area."
"In a free society, citizens do not need the government’s permission to simply petition in a public park," said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan legal director, in a statement. "Barring petitioning anywhere in a 135-acre park except for a tiny, isolated spot is a particularly egregious violation of the First Amendment."
According to the ACLU's lawsuit, the restrictions placed on Miller were even more limited: The permit only allowed her to petition from July 1 to August 1, 2011, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., even though the park is open until 9 p.m. in the summer. Furthermore, her sign announcing the petition was to be placed within 10 feet of the orange square in the woods, while other groups' activity signs – such as those offering directions for birthday parties and family reunions – are routinely placed more than 100 feet away.
Originally posted by Fractured.Facade
Use the 3'x3' foot space, build a tower equipped with loud speakers amplified to 10,000,000 watts of audio power, have an open microphone at the base of the tower, and let anyone shout out whatever they want.