TOLEDO, OH—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Toledo Chief of Police Michael Navarre and City Law Director John Madigan urging the police department and city to immediately cease enforcing any policy that restricts Toledo residents’ ability to distribute literature and petitions on the public sidewalk outside of Fifth Third Field. Recent reports from residents have pointed to a policy enforced by the Toledo Police Department that no one may gather and hand out literature on that sidewalk.
ACLU of Northwest Ohio Chapter President Steve Miller said, “Public sidewalks are open venues where concerned residents may hand out literature on important social topics, circulate petitions on political problems or even just to speak out on issues that concern them. Keeping all sidewalks open to the public is crucial to fostering free speech and should not be compromised.”
“Some restrictions may be placed if there are traffic or safety concerns or if those handing out flyers are disorderly, but the policy enforced by the Toledo Police Department seems to curtail all free speech in this area,” continued Miller.
The policy was recently questioned when a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was removed from the sidewalk by the Toledo Police Department for circulating a petition. The resident was not cited for being disorderly and appeared to have broken no laws except the police department’s policy not to allow petitioners on the public sidewalk outside of Fifth Third Field.
“The ability to distribute information on public property is a cornerstone of the First Amendment. Without being free to disseminate ideas, the public becomes less informed about the political process and serious social issues. Officials should not stand in the way of those exercising their free speech rights, but instead should welcome the free flow of information and knowledge within the community,” concluded Miller.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan ACLU of Ohio office is located in Cleveland and has community and campus chapters located throughout the state. There are almost 30,000 ACLU members and supporters in Ohio and more than 500,000 nationwide.