Calumet Resident Gets Help from the ACLU In Order to Protest

August 01, 2001

DETROIT -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sent a letter today urging that Calumet Township take immediate action to amend its unconstitutional zone ordinance that prohibits residents from posting either political or protest signs.

Stuart Kauppila, a resident of Calumet Township, hoping to end the early morning deliveries to the grocery store next to his house, erected a sign on his lawn in protest.  He claims that the 5:30 a.m. deliveries wake up his children.  "It’s my duty as a husband and father to look after the interests of my family,” said Mr. Kauppila.  “I can't imagine anyone wanting me to do anything other than that."

 The Township Zoning Administrator, Paul A. Lehto, ordered Mr. Kauppila to take down the sign stating that the sign violates Section 5 of the Calumet Township Zoning Ordinance. 

Feeling as if he is “fighting city hall”, Mr. Kauppila requested the aid of the ACLU.  Mr. Kauppila asked, “Since when do stores have more rights than citizens?”

 Michael Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan’s Legal Director, is certain that they don’t.  “The Calumet Township ordinance clearly violates the First Amendment by making it illegal for residents to place protest signs on their own lawns,” said Steinberg. “Mr. Kauppila is eager to continue his protest and we hope to resolve this matter amicably without the need for litigation.”

 According to a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, “A special respect for individual liberty in the home has long been part of our culture and our law; that principle has special resonance when government seeks to constrain a person’s ability to speak there.” 

 “Without this sign, I have no means to let the public know what’s occurring. I’m left without a voice,” Mr. Kauppila added. 

An article from the Calumet Gazette follows:

August 4, 2001

ACLU enters Calumet sign-posting dispute
Group urges township to overturn ordinance

By Jesse Drake
Gazette Writer

CALUMET — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is urging Calumet Township officials to take immediate action on what it considers an unconstitutional zoning ordinance.

The letter came Wednesday and involves a township ordinance prohibiting residents from posting either political or protest signs.

Township resident Stuart Kauppila, hoping to end the early-morning deliveries to the grocery store next to his house, erected a sign on his lawn in protest reading “Please Don’t Shop at Fraki’s.” He said the 5:15 a.m. deliveries wake his children.

“It’s my duty as a husband and father to look after the interests of my family,” Kauppila said. “I can’t imagine anyone wanting me to do anything other than that.

“I’m not looking to establish any hard feelings or affect Fraki’s in any way that would do any long-term damage. I just want this issue resolved.” Township Supervisor Paul Lehto told Kauppila to take down the sign, saying it violates section 5 of the Calumet Township zoning ordinance. The ordinance states the township has the right to “control the number, types of all signs in business areas and certain other districts.” It prohibits commercial signs exceeding 5 square-feet in area, which Kauppila’s 4-foot by 8-foot sign violates.

“If you were to restrict the area of a protest sign, (the sign) would be useless,” Kauppila said.

 Lehto said he had received the letter and notified the ACLU of its receipt, but reserved further comment until the matter is discussed by the township board at the end of the month.

Kevin Fraki, manager of the Elm and Fourth Street Fraki Markets Inc., said he’s talked to distributors about keeping the early-morning noise levels to a minimum.

However, he said his business, operating at that location for 30 years, has to get started by 8 a.m. Kauppila, he added, worked at the store for 15 years.

“I’ve bent over backwards with that guy,” Fraki said. “He can go ahead and put his sign up, I don’t care.”