Free Speech Press Release

05.26.11

South Euclid Parade Policy Silences Free Speech

ACLU Urges City to Lift Ban on Candidates and Political Speech During Memorial Day Parade

Read the letter to the mayor of South Euclid.

SOUTH EUCLID, OH – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to South Euclid city officials calling on them to remove free speech restrictions during their Memorial Day parade. Officials informed political candidates that they would be unable to participate in the parade as part of their campaign. In addition, attendees will be prohibited from distributing petitions, handing out campaign information, and wearing clothing representing political campaigns.

“Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor those who sacrificed for our nation, and celebrate our freedoms. Unfortunately, South Euclid officials want to deny residents from exercising the very rights that soldiers have fought to protect,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James L. Hardiman. “We should honor our veterans allowing a free exchange of ideas and political beliefs without exception.”

The ban on campaigning only applies to candidates who do not currently hold elected or appointed office. Incumbent candidates will be permitted to march in the parade.

“Not only does this policy restrict free speech, it unfairly treats incumbent politicians differently from other candidates,” added Hardiman. “While city officials may have good intentions, their policy gives incumbents an unfair advantage over their competitors.”

South Euclid’s policy would also ban residents from distributing petitions and other political material on an array of issues.

The ACLU previously filed a lawsuit in 2003 against the city of Parma Heights after it attempted to restrict political candidates from participating in the Memorial Day parade. In 2004, a federal judge ruled in favor of the ACLU and found the city’s policy unconstitutional.

“Community events should be open to residents to express their political beliefs without fear of punishment or unfair treatment. City officials would be better served by fostering civic engagement, rather than enforcing unconstitutional policies that discourage a robust political discourse,” Hardiman concluded.