By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday sued the city of New Orleans to prevent it from establishing a "clean zone" where the use of banners, signs and flags would be restricted during Super Bowl festivities.
The ACLU of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an activist and a street preacher who claim the city's enforcement of a new ordinance and a code enforcement guide would trample on their free speech rights and limit their activities in the days leading up to the Feb. 3 football championship game between Baltimore and San Francisco.
The ACLU claims New Orleans adopted the new policies at the behest of the NFL.
"The NFL asked them to do a whole bunch of things, including this," said ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman.
Esman said other Super Bowl host cities have enforced similar rules in recent years, but they have never been challenged in court before.
The city, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas are named as defendants in the suit. A spokesman for the city didn't immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment.
A federal judge didn't immediately act on the group's request for a court order barring the city from enforcing the "clean zone" limits, which are scheduled to take effect in the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods on the morning of Jan. 28 and end on the evening of Feb. 5.
The ordinance, passed last month, says banners, flags and signs are prohibited in the "clean zone" without the city's or NFL's authorization. The content of any temporary signs approved by the city must consist of at least 60 percent Super Bowl or NFL branding. The guide, meanwhile, says no signs will be permitted unless the applicant is an NFL sponsor, the suit says.
The plaintiffs are Tara Jill Ciccarone, an Occupy NOLA member, and Troy Bohn, pastor of a religious congregation that regularly preaches on Bourbon Street.
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