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Santa Cruz Law Limiting Free Speech Ruled Unconstitutional

Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Michael Barton ruled today (March 19) that a Santa Cruz City law that prohibits political tabling for more than an hour is unconstitutional.

Activist Steve Argue was arrested twice under the law in June and July 2003. He was arrested staffing a joint political table of the Peace and Freedom Party and Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom.

A number of police began to time and monitor Steve Argues political activities as soon as he erected the literature table on the sidewalk of Pacific Avenue. When an hour was up the police demanded Argue take down his table or face arrest. Argue refused the police orders saying that City law was in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Twice, on June 23 and July 6th, he was handcuffed and taken to jail with literature and signs taken in as evidence.

Today Judge Barton agreed with the argument put forward by Steve Argues attorney, Tony Bole, that the law is unconstitutional on the grounds that it discriminates against non-commercial displays in favor of commercial displays. Those setting up commercial displays can attain a license and sell their products all day while there is no such avenue for non-commercial displays such as free literature.

First Amendment Center
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