The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed a lawsuit today against the Utah Department of Transportation for restricting organizers of an upcoming environmental awareness march.
Organizers of I Matter Utah were shocked to discover that part of their permit process for it’s March/Parade, or “Marade” to empower the youth to get involved in environmental advocacy, would require organizers to get advanced waivers from everyone who will be marching.
Darcy Goddard, the ACLU of Utah’s legal director says such a requirement--along with costly liability insurance--might make sense for a formal parade, “But the May 7 Marade is a political rally that is likely—and should be allowed—to attract additional participants at the last minute. UDOT’s mandate that iMatter Utah must know weeks in advance each and every person who will attend renders compliance by iMatter Utah, or any group organizing a political protest or rally in response to world events, functionally impossible,” Goddard said in a press release.
That’s why they’ve teamed up with attorneys Brian Barnard and Stewart Gollan of the Utah Legal Clinic to file a lawsuit in the District Court of Utah, against the Utah Department of Transportation for restricting the youth group’s First Amendment rights to assembly. According to the lawsuit the group faced disparate treatment from UDOT and Salt Lake City. The march, which would run from the Wallace Bennett Federal Building at 125 S. State to Library Square at 210 E. 400 South, required the group to receive permits from Salt Lake City as well as UDOT since part of the march route covers part of Utah Highway State 89. While Salt Lake City readily issued a “free expression” permit, UDOT told the organizers they did not recognize such exemptions.
According to the lawsuit, when iMatters informed UDOT that the steep cost of liability insurance would restrict their rally since they are a nonprofit organization with no assets in Utah, a UDOT staffer responded via e-mail: “UDOT does not treat a political and free speech any different from other events,” according to the complaint.
A claim the attorneys for iMatters, say violates the Utah and U.S. Constitution, and are therefore seeking an injunction to prohibit UDOT from stopping the event which is still slated for Saturday, May 7. They’re also challenging the restrictions as being too burdensome for organizers who are planning on a rally that could have a fluctuating number of between 50 and 100 participants, with people joining in the rally ad hoc as it marches down State Street.