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Ban on signs at parade lifted for now

Posted on Fri, Sep. 01, 2006

Ban on signs at parade lifted for now

Abortion protesters can carry banners



GRANITE CITY - Large anti-abortion signs, including pictures of dismembered fetuses, can be streetside at Granite City's Labor Day parade, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge William Stiehl granted a temporary injunction against enforcement of a city law banning signs larger that 8.5-by-11 inches within 25 feet of a parade route.

City Council passed the sign law after a scuffle between abortion protesters and others at the annual Christmas parade.

The injunction is not permanent, but will remain in force until the court makes a decision in a lawsuit against the city by anti-abortion leaders.

In his 10-page opinion, the judge said lawyers for Angela and Daniel Michael of Highland gave him evidence that they might win their free-speech lawsuit now pending in federal court.

The Michaels and their group, Small Victories, are frequent demonstrators outside Granite City 's Hope Clinic for Women. It is the only abortion clinic in Southern Illinois.

The Michaels claim the law limiting the size of their signs amounts to a 'heckler's veto.'"

"The Supreme Court has held in nearly every case involving a 'heckler's veto' that it is not acceptable for the state to prevent a speaker from exercising his constitutional rights because of the reaction to him by others," the judge wrote.

Angela Michael said Thursday she and her husband were coming home from the Hope Clinic on Thursday when they received word of the judge's decision.

"We're not gloating, but it was a day brightener," she said.

Michael said she is "not sure" whether she will hold up a picture sign at the city's Labor Day parade.

"I want to hold a sign that tells the truth," she said. "I have no control over what other people hold."

Mayor Ed Hagnauer said Thursday the injunction is "very frustrating."

"I still believe (the signs) are wrong and the judge made a bad ruling," Hagnauer said. "Is he only looking at the right of the people who carry the signs and not at the right of the people who come and then have to explain to their children what the pictures mean?

"You couldn't show those pictures in a movies rated G. That's what a parade is: G-rated."

He said the city will continue its defense of the law in federal court when the Michael's lawsuit goes to trial.

In making his decision, the judge watched a video tape, filmed by 17-year-old Mia Michael, of the disturbance at the Christmas parade.

In his 19-page ruling, Stiehl said the video "offered little to the court's analysis of the issues raised in the motion for a preliminary injunction."

The ruling Thursday also means the Michaels can carry their large signs at three other annual parades in Granite City.

The Labor Day parade is sponsored by the Tri-Cities Chapter of the AFL-CIO, and attracts many local, state and national politicians.

Daniel Michael testified in court last week that the parade is an opportunity for Small Victories to stress its objection to abortion to lawmakers.

Contact Jayne Matthews at jmatthews@bnd.com or 345-7822, ext. 25.

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