On Aug. 31st the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in McCraw, et al. v. City of Oklahoma City, upholding free speech by overturning a city ordinance that banned people from standing in medians of public roadways. Plaintiffs included the Oklahoma Libertarian Party, specifically representing the right to political speech in the right of way of public thoroughfares.
The ordinance was originally proposed in an effort to restrict the rights of panhandlers but was quickly amended to disguise that purpose by cloaking the measure with manufactured public safety concerns. Although the federal district court upheld the ordinance, on appeal the 10th Circuit saw through the safety veneer, noting how the City could not produce any data showing being in medians to be dangerous and in comparing the work of OKC Beautiful volunteers to what the City sought to prohibit, saying “Surely if it is safe for volunteers to be on the medians long enough to beautify them, it is also safe for plaintiffs to be on the medians for similar periods of time.”
Former OKLP chair Tina Kelly was a witness in the trial at the district court, testifying to the use of medians for political activity including petitioning for ballot access and campaigning for candidates. The victory is reminiscent of a 1984 case when the district court overturned trespassing charges by the City against Annie Wampler, Neil Wright, and D. Frank Robinson for petitioning for ballot access on public property outside a gun show at the State Fairgrounds.
Read the decision here: https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca10/19-6008/19-6008-2020-08-31.html
Article by Chris Powell.