ACLU Urges Saugatuck Officials to Uphold the Free Speech Rights of Recall Volunteers

July 26, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sent a letter today to the City of Saugatuck urging officials to uphold the free speech rights of volunteers with the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder who are collecting petition signatures on public sidewalks.

The ACLU’s letter was sent following complaints from petitioners who were told by city officials that they have the right to be on public sidewalks, but could not approach or speak to pedestrians.

Today’s letter comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan last week on behalf of volunteers from the recall effort who sought to gather signatures in Genesee County parks. The lawsuit charges that the Genesee County Parks rule barring volunteers to petition anywhere in a 135-acre park but an isolated 3 foot by 3 foot area is unconstitutional.

The judge issued a temporary order, which both parties agreed to preventing the County from enforcing the rule while the case continues to be litigated in federal court.

The following statement can be attributed to Miriam Aukerman, ACLU West Michigan staff attorney:

“To tell petitioners that they may not speak to pedestrians in Saugatuck is not only incorrect and unconstitutional; it sends a confusing message to residents about their rights.

"While we are pleased that city officials understand that petitioners have a First Amendment right to gather signatures on public sidewalks and in public parks, it is essential that city employees have all the facts and do not mislead members of the public to believe that their rights are less than what they actually are.

"We know that Saugatuck is a community that values free speech and political discussion, and hope this matter is resolved quickly.”

In addition to Aukerman, the ACLU’s letter was signed by Megan Reynolds and James Rodbard of the ACLU of Michigan Southwest Lawyers Committee.

Key News and Documents
Read our letter to the city of Saugatuck
Judge Orders Genesee County Park to End Petitioning Restrictions
ACLU Sues Genesee County Parks Over Petitioning Restrictions