Court of Appeals Finds Dearborn Protest Rules Unconstitutional

August 15, 2005

DETROIT - The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan hailed a federal appeals court decision last Friday, striking a City of Dearborn ordinance that requires people to obtain a permit to protest at least 30 days before an event.

“The court issued a wonderful decision vindicating the right of people in this country to participate in protest marches at a time when they can most affect public policy,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “Dearborn residents who wanted to march against the U.S. invasion of Iraq should not have been forced to wait until the occupation was complete.”

In the opinion, the three judge panel wrote, “The city of Dearborn’s Ordinance suffers from a number of constitutional infirmities. Amore carefully crafted ordinance that strikes the proper balance between the city’s significant interests and the exercise of First Amendment freedoms is needed.” 

The lawsuit was filed in January 2003 on behalf of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a national civil rights organization with offices in Dearborn, and Imad Chammout, a Dearborn resident and business owner.

The City of Dearborn prosecuted Imad Chammout for participating in a march without a permit, a crime punishable by up to 90 days in prison and a $500 fine even though it was not organized by Chammout. As a result, both ADC and Chammout were fearful of organizing any other marches. 

The case was argued by ACLU Cooperating Attorney William Wertheimer. ACLU cooperating attorney Miriam Aukerman, and ACLU Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg also worked on the case.

To read the ruling, go to: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/05a0340p-06.pdf

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