A Thursday hearing will decide whether or not a temporary restraining order should be placed on the Utah Department of Transportation to keep them from impeding a political rally in Salt Lake City this weekend.
District court Judge Clark Waddoups will be holding a special hearing Thursday morning to hear arguments from American Civil Liberties Union of Utah affiliated attorneys as to why a restraining order should be used to keep UDOT from stopping an environmental awareness rally and march, scheduled for Saturday, May 7.
Brian Barnard, (pictured) a local civil rights attorney of the Utah Legal Clinic is litigating the case with colleague Stewart Gollan and with the help of the ACLU of Utah. Their suit argues that UDOT’s requirements restrict the youth-group iMatters from holding a peaceful rally by requiring expensive insurance premiums to get their permit and by also requiring the organizers to have signed waivers of all participants in the rally before it commences. Attorneys argue such requirements are impossible for a political rally that would attract spontaneous participants who might show up the day of the rally.
Barnard says UDOT hasn’t learned its lesson since he prevailed against the department in a similar case in 2009, where the department had required hefty insurance for a group of activists who planned on marching in Morgan, Utah, to protest a nearby mink farm. In that case Barnard says UDOT relented after being sued and promised to rewrite their permitting rules.
“In settlement of that suit, UDOT promised to review the rule and revise it if appropriate,” Barnard writes via e-mail. “Now a year and a half later [and] UDOT has not revised the rule. The state can not force a small penniless group to pay the substantial cost for an insurance policy to exercise its first amendment rights.”
A call to UDOT for comment had not been returned by the time of this posting but this blog will be updated if UDOT chooses to comment.