ACLU-TN Files Lawsuit Against City of Brentwood for Freedom of Press Violations

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The Contributor restricted from selling newspaper 

June 29, 2011

Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director, (615) 320-7142

NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against the City of Brentwood for violating the freedom of speech and press rights of The Contributor, Nashville’s street newspaper, and their vendors. The lawsuit argues that the City of Brentwood’s ordinance violates the guarantees of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and press by prohibiting The Contributor from distributing its newspaper and sharing its message in Brentwood.

The Contributor and its vendors have the constitutional right to distribute their newspaper in areas considered traditional public fora, such as a sidewalk or public right of way. The City of Brentwood’s ban on that access is unacceptable and violates the guarantees of the First Amendment,” said ACLU cooperating attorney Irwin Venick of Dobbins, Venick, Kuhn & Byassee.

In January 2011, The Contributor distributors Calvin Hart and Andrew Harrington were issued citations for violating a Brentwood city ordinance that did not allow selling of materials or merchandise from any public street, alley, or sidewalk. The distributors were merely exercising their First Amendment rights and neither was obstructing or blocking the flow of traffic.

“Our mission at The Contributor is to highlight issues faced by those in the homeless and poverty populations. The City of Brentwood is not only limiting our message but also our efforts to create a sense of community between our vendors and our customers,” said Tasha French, Executive Director of The Contributor.

The Contributor, a Nashville-based nonprofit organization, is a street newspaper that focuses on issues surrounding homelessness and poverty. The papers are sold by homeless and formerly homeless individuals.

“The ACLU of Tennessee is committed to vigorously protecting the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech, expression and press which is why we are challenging the City of Brentwood’s repressive restrictions,” said Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU-TN Legal Director.

The lawsuit The Contributor et. al., v. The City of Brentwood was filed in the United State District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. ACLU-TN is representing The Contributor and vendors Calvin Hart and Andrew Harrington. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking a declaratory and injunctive relief declaring the ordinance unconstitutional and prohibiting its enforcement.

A copy of the complaint filed today is available here.

2017-03-28T06:53:49-05:00 June 29th, 2011|Categories: Press Releases|