ACLU, Protesters Sue Ferndale for Right to Urge Motorists to Honk

April 04, 2007

Detroit -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit today against the City of Ferndale asking the court to strike down the city’s policies of arresting peace protesters who encourage passing motorists to honk in support of their demonstration and ticketing motorists who honk.

Peace protesters, including our clients Nancy Goedert, Victor Kittila and James Grimm, have gathered at the corner of Woodward Ave. and Nine Mile Rd. every Monday evening for the past five years holding signs opposing U.S. foreign policy. In June 2006, Ferndale began cracking down on protesters who encouraged honking and threatened the concerned citizens with possible arrests and tickets if they held such signs. Furthermore, the city issued tickets to those who have honked in support of the protesters.

 

"The corner of Woodward and Nine Mile Rd. is a classic public forum that has been a central gathering point for these peace protesters for years," said Kary L. Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. "Holding up ‘honk’ signs and honking in support of sidewalk protests is a time honored tradition that should be respected by Ferndale. To censor the political speech of these protesters is to violate a fundamental right that has defined our society."

To protest the Ferndale Police Department’s new no-honking policy, some protesters, including Goedert, and Kittila held up signs that read, "Police Say: Don’t Honk for Peace."  Other motorists, including our clients Reverend Harry T. Cook and Brian Price honked in support of the peace vigil. As a result, Goedert and Kittila were charged with misdemeanors for holding their signs and Price was ticketed for honking in support. Price paid his $145.00 fine shortly after he was issued the ticket.

After the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild intervened, the city agreed to dismiss the charges against Kittila and Goedert. Although Ferndale acknowledged the right to display signs that say, "Police Say Don't Honk," it refused to rescind its policies of arresting protesters who hold up "Honk for Peace" signs and charging motorists with civil infractions for honking.

"We have been peacefully protesting the war with these signs for years without incident," said Goedert, the mother of former Ferndale mayor Charles Goedert. "As Americans we like to brag about the freedoms we enjoy, however, we can not take them for granted and we must stay vigilant to protect them.”

The protesters and motorists are represented by ACLU Volunteer Attorneys Thomas F. Cavalier and Melonie L. M. Stothers of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, P.L.L.C., ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary L. Moss and Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg and the National Lawyers Guild Volunteer Attorney Deborah Choly.

To read the complaint, please visit: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/pdf/honkforpeacecomplaint.pdf