ACLU suing to keep mural featuring Trump's 'Access Hollywood' comments

The Hill 3 months ago

The Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing New Orleans on behalf of a resident who has been ordered to take down a mural featuring President Trump’s infamous comments from a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape.

The mural features Trump’s quotes from the tape but uses images to represent “certain offensive words," according to the complaint.

In the 2005 tape, which emerged shortly before the 2016 election, Trump is overheard bragging about touching and kissing women without their consent.

The ACLU is claiming that the city’s permitting process for murals is unconstitutional and places restrictions on freedom of speech.

New Orleans resident Neal Morris commissioned the mural for his property in November 2017.

The complaint states that he went to City Hall ahead of the mural’s painting to determine the permitting process and what was needed for a mural to be approved, but that city officials weren’t able to provide him with the information

After a local news outlet ran a story about the mural, New Orleans sent a letter to Morris, saying that a zoning violation had been discovered on his property.

“The mural on the building on this property is not allowed in that the property is zoned residentially and murals shall not be permitted in any residentially zoned historic district,” the letter reads, according to the court filing.

Morris was told to remove the mural, and that he could face jail time or a fine for not doing so.

Violating the city’s mural provision is a misdemeanor crimes, punishable by a minimum fine of $500 for each violation, the lawsuit states.

The ACLU is arguing that the mural permitting process is “an unconstitutional, content-based restriction on speech.”

“This mural is a constitutionally-protected form of free expression – a right guaranteed to every American by the First Amendment,” Jane Johnson, the interim executive director for the ACLU of Louisiana, said in a statement.

“Forcing artists and their patrons to get permission from the government, pay exorbitant fees, and navigate an obscure bureaucratic process before they can express themselves on their own property is a totally unnecessary trampling of their First Amendment rights," she continued.

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