Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Equal enforcement of the law

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Tibbs <tibbs1973@yahoo.com>
Sent: Monday, May 15, 2006 7:04 PM
To: micudat@bloomington.in.gov
Subject: Free-standing signs at the anti-war protest

Mr. Micuda,

A couple weeks ago, one of your employees (I believe his name was Justin) stopped by Planned Parenthood to let people picketing there know that our protest was out of compliance with city regulations. Some of the signs we were using at the protest were freestanding. Justin explained to us that we could have the signs there in the exact spot where we had them, but they could not be freestanding. The signs need to have a human being attached to them to be in compliance.

Throughout this discussion, Justin was very professional and courteous. He was simply doing his job, and while I may disagree with the policy, I certainly do not fault him for trying to make sure the rules were obeyed. He also followed up and volunteered to provide the exact sections of city code governing signage.

That said, I think it is a silly technicality to deem free-standing signs that are only present during a protest to be out of compliance, while those same signs are completely legal if held in the same spot for two hours by a human being. I am also concerned that complaint-driven enforcement opens up the possibility that the rules will be enforced arbitrarily.

The main reason I am writing you today is that I noticed that the anti-war activists who are on the courthouse square every Wednesday had a couple free-standing signs at their protest last week. While I fully support the right to protest the war and I think that dialogue about the war is healthy, I do not believe they should be allowed to have freestanding signs at the protest. If the rule against freestanding signs applies to pro-life activists protesting Bloomington's abortion clinic, it should apply to the anti-war protesters as well. This is especially important because the anti-war position has been officially endorsed by city government.

I know you and your staff are professionals who wish to apply the law evenly to everyone, so I am confident someone on the Planning Department staff will warn the anti-war protesters that free-standing signs are out of compliance with city ordinance. I am also confident that if Planned Parenthood puts their signs into the public right of way as they have done in years past that your staff will let PP know they are out of compliance with city code. If and when I see one of Planned Parenthood's signs in the public right of way, I will contact your staff in order to help them spot signage violations. Thank you for your time.

Scott Tibbs