In the ongoing fight to protect First Amendment rights along the Las Vegas Strip, the ACLU of Nevada has teamed up with unlikely allies, Zorro and Darth Vader, against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Sheriff Gillespie, and the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino.
On June 10, 2010, the ACLU of Nevada filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jason and Sebastian Perez-Morciglio – brothers by day, Zorro and Darth Vader by night - to remind Las Vegas that that violations of the First Amendment on the Strip will not be ignored.
One Friday night the brothers Perez-Morciglio were walking on the public sidewalk in front of the Venetian. Jason had already begun his transformation into Zorro while Sebastian was incognito in his daytime clothes. Jason had momentarily stopped walking to throw trash into a bin when the Venetian security personnel confronted the brothers for being on “casino property.”
The brothers were then unlawfully detained by security personnel inside the Venetian. Each brother then was strapped to a chair for over an hour, leaving them both physically and emotionally scarred. When Metro was called, the officers did not help the brothers, but instead affirmed the Venetian security personnel’s false assertions that the brothers had been trespassing.
Sebastian said, “We did nothing wrong. All we wanted to do was to perform and give the tourists a better experience. Now we are afraid to even walk near the Venetian."
This will be Round Two in the ACLU of Nevada's legal battle with the Venetian and the law is clearly on our side. In 2001, the Ninth Circuit explicitly held that the sidewalk along the Strip and in front of the Venetian Resort is a public forum, where individuals enjoy the full protection of the First Amendment right to free speech and expression. This includes the right to perform in costume on these public forum sidewalks, as were the Perez-Morciglio brothers.
“Despite the ACLU of Nevada’s prior litigation with the Venetian, the hotel continues to act in blatant disregard of the court’s decision,” said Maggie McLetchie, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Nevada. “The fact that certain casino properties on the Las Vegas Strip persist in violating the right of the public to express themselves on these public forum sidewalks is deplorable. The ACLU of Nevada always has and will continue to enforce and protect the First Amendment rights of the public. If the only means to do so is through litigation, then so be it.”
- Zorro and Darth Vader in legal battle with police and Venetian, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6/10/10
- EDITORIAL: Free speech on the Strip, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6/13/10