On December 2, 2009, the ACLU of Nevada filed a Motion seeking an Order to Show Cause in its ongoing case to protect First Amendment activity at Las Vegas’ Fremont Street Experience. The brief was filed in response to the continued failure of the Fremont Street Experience, LLC (FSELLC) to comply with the law, including the Federal District Court’s March 17, 2009 Judgment and Order, which mandates the cessation of all practices that prohibit individuals from exercising their First Amendment rights, including street performing and tabling.
“During the twelve years in which this case has been litigated, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Federal District Court of Nevada have left no doubt that the sidewalks and streets in the Fremont Street Experience, a five block stretch of Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Main Street, are considered a public forum and should be afforded all of the rights of free speech and expression,” said ACLU General Counsel Allen Lichtenstein. “First Amendment rights must be respected on Fremont Street, plain and simple.”
The ACLU of Nevada decided that seeking further court action was necessary and filed the motion because, since the Court’s March 2009 Order, the ACLU of Nevada received numerous complaints regarding the treatment of persons engaged in free expression at the Fremont Street Experience. The Motion for an Order to Show Cause seeks to have the Defendants account for their failure to comply with the Order or else be held in contempt.
The ACLU of Nevada hopes the Motion helps end, once and for all, unlawful practices. As Allen Lichtenstein explained,” these defendants have taken the position that they can control all speech activities at the Fremont Street Experience no matter how many times the Courts have told them they cannot do so they persist in trying to act as sensors at the pedestrian wall. We were forced to file this motion because it appears to be the only way to get them to stop defying the Federal Courts.”
Among the many individuals who have been improperly excluded from or harassed at Fremont Street was Brett Harris, a UNLV law student who interned with the ACLU of Nevada last summer. When she learned about the case, Brett decided she wanted to perform at the Fremont Street Experience and went down with a group of ACLU of Nevada interns. A FSELLC security guard told her she needed a permit to perform – despite the fact that permits are not available and despite the fact that case law and the Court’s Order make clear that such a requirement would not pass constitutional muster. When ACLU attorney Maggie McLetchie then intervened and introduced herself as Brett’s attorney, the security guard explained that people had to “jump through hoops” in order to perform – unless they had governmental permission or were with some “higher power,” which he later identified as the ACLU, unaware that McLetchie and Harris were involved with the ACLU.
“Everyone has free and equal First Amendment rights on Fremont Street,” said Maggie McLetchie. “Not just people FSELLC arbitrarily allows there or decides is a ‘higher power.’”
Brett enjoyed being able to tap dance – something she loves to do – and stand up for free speech at the same time. “The experience added a real-world dimension to all the legal work I did at the ACLU,” said Brett. “I learned a lot about First Amendment law, including the fact that the government or its delegates can’t stop me from dancing in public places!”
- Las Vegas Review Journal (12/4/09): FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE: ACLU Says Rights Remain Curtailed
- View the ACLU's Video of Brett Harris and Maggie McLetchie on Fremont Street here.