Tuesday, Jul 26, 2016
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Group gets OK to write with chalk on sidewalk

ACLU suit continues for Occupy Defiance

DEFIANCE — Attorneys for Occupy Defiance and the city of Defiance agreed Wednesday to grant a permit to the group to write on public sidewalks in chalk.

The agreement does not end a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Toledo by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on behalf of the Occupy group, which contends the city’s stance on sidewalk chalk writing violates free speech rights.

Instead, attorneys on both sides agreed the Occupy group will request and the city will grant a permit authorizing the group to write in chalk on city sidewalks, according to court documents.

The permit will remain in effect until further court order, the document states.

City Law Director David Williams said the city likely would have approved a request for the chalking activity had the group applied for it before, regardless of the lawsuit.

“We can still talk about whether a permit should be required, which is really the gist of the suit,” Mr. Williams said.

The suit stated Occupy Defiance members want to hold a “chalk walk” event today but “are afraid to do so for fear they will be arrested or prosecuted.”

The suit asked for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, which still will be scheduled for a later hearing.

ACLU of Ohio spokesman Nick Worner said he did not know if the group plans to have the sidewalk chalk event today.

The suit stems from an incident a year ago in which police stopped members of the Occupy group from writing messages on sidewalks in chalk.

No citations or charges were filed.

But the group contends the city enforces rules related to sidewalk chalking in a discriminatory way.

Mr. Williams said the issue “doesn’t need to be more confrontational or controversial than necessary.”

“I don’t really believe that the parties are nearly as far apart as you might guess,” he said.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6056, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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