Louisiana town posed to repeal ordinance targeting anti-Biden display

 September 17, 2023

In a notable victory for free speech, a Louisiana coastal town is poised to repeal an ordinance passed primarily to prevent a local resident from flying anti-Biden flags on his truck, as the Associated Press reports.

The city's reversal on the matter is the result of a legal settlement, the terms of which were filed in federal court on Friday, stemming from a lawsuit filed by the Tulane First Amendment law clinic on behalf of Ross Brunet, who made a habit of flying flags with controversial slogans from the back of his truck, according to The Hill.

Flag controversy spawns litigation

Brunet, who works as a contractor in Grand Isle and throughout southern Louisiana, received citations on four different occasions due to his display of large flags flown from his truck, banners which bore capital lettering that read “F*** Biden” as well as “f***for voting for him.”

According to local law enforcement at the time, Brunet's flags were in violation of the town's rules on “patently obscene” words, depictions, or photos, as NBC News explained.

The contractor prevailed in his defense of those four citations, though he was subsequently cited on another three instances “for the simple act of” flying his flags, according to his attorneys.

Those citations were dropped, however, when Grand Isle passed an ordinance banning vehicle signs of a certain size or those containing wording “deemed offensive and vulgar.”

Suit filed

The First Amendment Clinic at Tulane University Law School took up Brunet's cause, filing suit in federal court and arguing that his First Amendment rights extend to his ability to use language others may deem crude in order to express his political beliefs.

Attorneys for Brunet contended that the Grand Isle ordinance was adopted “to silence Mr. Brunet's core political speech specifically.

Katie Schwartzmann of the Tulane First Amendment Clinic explained at the time of the lawsuit's filing, “The barrage of traffic stops, tickets, and required court appearances over Mr. Brunet's flags are a clear violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.”

“His flags are protected by the Constitution,” she added, giving voice to a position that appears to have won the day, in that a settlement has been reached between the parties that will see the ordinance at issue repealed.

Repeal pending

According to the settlement filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Grand Isle will repeal the ordinance banning temporary signage on vehicles based on the language they contain by Oct. 20.

In addition, Brunet is set to receive a sum of $40,000 as compensation for damages suffered and for attorneys' fees.

In exchange for the aforementioned concessions, Brunet will drop his lawsuit.

Though the settlement still requires approval from the judge overseeing the matter, if it holds, the outcome will represent an impressive win for those who stand in opposition to censorship of political speech.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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