RENO, NV – Today, April 16, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a lawsuit to protect the rights of free speech and assembly on the public sidewalks around the Bruce R. Thompson United States Courthouse and Federal Building in Reno. The First Amendment protects the rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.
Before individuals can exercise their free speech rights on the public sidewalks around the Thompson Federal Building, they are currently required to obtain a permit. However, public sidewalks are a traditional public forum protected by the First Amendment. The government cannot limit or regulate speech in a public forum. Nonetheless, on the public sidewalks around the Thompson Federal Building, individuals first have to get a permit to assemble, hand out literature, or engage in other activities protected by the First Amendment.
“Restricting speech in public forums violates the fundamental idea of free speech,” said Katrina Ross, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Nevada. “The government cannot tell you what you can and cannot say in a public space.”
The regulation also specifically bans certain types of speech, like political expression. This unconstitutionally restricts speech based on content or the message of the speaker.
“It is highly suspect any time the government regulates the content of speech, especially in this case. By banning political expression, the government is limiting a basic constitutional right of Nevada’s citizens,” said Ross.
The ACLU of Nevada is suing the General Services Administration (GSA), the independent agency of the United States government that has enacted the regulation restricting free speech on the public sidewalks around the Thompson Federal Building. The ACLU of Nevada represents two ACLU members in this case, who are representative of the ACLU membership as a whole. ACLU members wish to engage in expressive activity and feel that this regulation chills their free speech rights. The ACLU of Nevada seeks to obtain a permanent injunction against the regulation so it cannot be enforced.