Preliminary Injunction Granted To Allow Antiabortion Protesters To Display Signs in Riverside
Riverside, Calif., officials cannot confiscate signs displayed by antiabortion protesters on the sidewalk outside the Family Planning Associates clinic, as a result of a preliminary injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Robert Timlin, the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Riverside officials in December 2003 and January confiscated the signs, which display "graphic images of fetuses that the protesters say were aborted," saying that the signs violated a city sign ordinance, according to the Press-Enterprise. Timlin said that the city sign ordinance exempts directional signs, historical information signs and some commercial signs, according to the Press-Enterprise. "Since the city has chosen to allow certain commercial signs to be placed in the public right of way, it cannot prohibit signs with noncommercial messages from being placed in the public right of way without violating the First Amendment," Timlin said. The preliminary injunction will be in effect until the matter is resolved by a settlement or judgment or if the City Council alters the ordinance to comply with the First Amendment. Jeb Brown, supervising deputy city attorney in Riverside, said that the signs were not confiscated because of their content but because protesters sometimes left the signs on the sidewalk unattended "where they could blow over and hit a pedestrian or block foot traffic," according to the Press-Enterprise. "The content of their message is completely irrelevant to any analysis the city undertook," Brown said, adding, "Our interest is only in public safety." Michael Kumeta, an attorney representing the protesters, said that the "onus is on the city" to change its ordinance, according to the Press-Enterprise. Brown said the city will reevaluate the regulation to assure that it complies with the First Amendment, adding, "[W]e're still taking a look at the court's order and deciding what we're going to do" (Haberman, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 3/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.