Covering Louisiana

Jan 28, 2013 3:39 PM by AP

ACLU's suit over Super Bowl 'clean zone' settled

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An agreement Monday has resolved a lawsuit over plans by the city of New Orleans to enforce a "clean zone" where the use of banners, signs and flags would be restricted during Super Bowl week.

The agreement, which must be approved by a federal judge, would allow the city to enforce some limits on commercial activity in the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. The filing says the city can prohibit "off-site and mobile advertising," such as signs attached to a vehicle or worn by a person.

However, American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana's Executive Director Marjorie Esman said the city has agreed not to restrict other forms of commercial or non-commercial speech in the "clean zone." She said local businesses, for instance, will be free to hang signs advertising their wares.

The ACLU sued the city last Thursday on behalf of an activist and a street preacher. They claimed the "clean zone" limits, spelled out in a new city ordinance and a code enforcement guide, would trample on their free speech rights and limit their activities leading up to the title game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

"The city has essentially eliminated all of the problems with the original drafting" of the ordinance and guide, Esman said of the settlement Monday.

Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt issued a temporary restraining order that said the city can only enforce the limits in an area near the Superdome, where the game will be played Feb. 3. The ACLU and city on Monday asked the judge to dissolve that order.

Esman says other Super Bowl host cities have enforced similar rules in recent years at the NFL's request, but they had never been challenged in court before.

The new measures took effect Monday and are scheduled to end on the evening of Feb. 5. The city said the settlement clarifies that the "clean zone" is not intended to affect non-commercial speech.

"The clean zone addresses issues such as certain types of signage, outdoor vending and erecting structures and tents that the city already permits," the city said in statement. "It is an additional temporary designation that seeks to protect the quality of life for residents and assists businesses in thriving during the Super Bowl."

The ordinance, passed last month, said that the content of any temporary signs approved by the city must consist of at least 60 percent Super Bowl or NFL branding. But the settlement bars the city from enforcing that provision.

The city, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas were named as defendants in the suit. The plaintiffs are Tara Jill Ciccarone, an Occupy NOLA member, and Troy Bohn, pastor of a religious congregation that regularly preaches on Bourbon Street.

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