Friday, December 07, 2012

Street Preachers Keep Access To Holiday Festival For 2012

In December 2011, a Minnesota federal district court granted a preliminary injunction to prevent Duluth police officers from interfering with activities of two street preachers at the Bentleyville Tour of Lights.  The Tour is a holiday festival held each year on city property, Bayfront Festival Park, and is sponsored by a private non-profit group. (See prior posting.)  This year the city of Duluth negotiated a new contract with the sponsor of the Tour, under which the sponsor is granted exclusive use of the Park for the event. The city argued that this moots the 2011 preliminary injunction and permits the sponsor to exclude the street preachers.  In Jankowski v. City of Duluth, (D MN, Dec. 5, 2012), the court disagreed, refusing to vacate the original preliminary injunction saying:
... the City cannot change a traditional public forum by its own ipse dixit.... Because the Park is a traditional public forum, and because this year’s BTL event is free and open to the public despite the fact that the 2012 Agreement grants BTLI “exclusive use” of the Park, the Court finds that the Park has retained its public character during the 2012 BTL event.... [G]ranting exclusive use of the Park to BTLI has no impact on Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.
However, the court refused to hold defendants in contempt because of ambiguity in the language of the original preliminary injunction, instead issuing a new modified injunction to cover future Festivals. Alliance Defending Freedom issued a press release announcing the court's decision. Duluth News Tribune reports on the decision.