ACLU Follow-Up to CHP’s Protesters’ Free Speech

July 6, 2011

SAN DIEGO – After receiving a tepid response from the California Highway Patrol to our letter charging them with violating protesters’ free speech rights, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties sent a detailed reply asking that CHP officers be instructed that checkpoint protesters are allowed to demonstrate on public sidewalks.

The letter includes six photos detailing the site in question. In its letter of response to our original demand letter, the CHP’s staff counsel suggested that the officer who had cited protesters was concerned that driver safety was at stake, because drivers could be distracted by the protest signs. This claim does not pass legal muster, however, since the protesters were standing along a busy intersection buttressed by four car dealerships on each corner, all displaying multiple signs of varying (but large) sizes.

“By restricting the signs of protesters but not the car dealerships or others, the CHP is engaging in viewpoint discrimination,” the San Diego ACLU letter reads.

Escondido police have repeatedly set up checkpoints beyond the intersection in question. To effectively communicate with drivers about the checkpoints, this intersection is one of the prime locations available to protesters. San Diego ACLU Staff attorney Sarah Abshear writes that law enforcement’s attempts to move protesters “has nothing to do with driver safety and everything to do with preventing protesters from delivering an effective message.”