The supposedly anti-war organization, A.N.S.W.E.R., has just filed suit against the District of Columbia for fines imposed on the organization for defacing public property with its rally signs. Anyone who has traveled at all in D.C. is aware of the A.N.S.W.E.R signs, since they are plastered on light boxes and light poles, especially in the downtown area. The D.C. Department of Public Works has imposed fines in excess of $10,000.
The organization claims that its signs are posted with “a water-soluble glue that is easily removed.” The fact that some of this groups signs from rallies years ago are still tenaciously clinging to public property after hundreds of rain storms, puts the lie to this claim. The group also claims that it is being discriminated against, as compared to “election or crime prevention posters.”
The experienced traveler in D.C. knows that political posters sprout like weeds in the rain in election seasons, but are swiftly removed thereafter. Other posters, such as for rock bands, night spots, and other entertainments, are plastered on the plywood at construction sites. Those posters, conveniently, come down when the plywood comes down.
A.N.S.W.E.R. seems to be the only group which routinely pastes its posters on permanent, public structures, so the posters won’t come down. Other users of posters usually don’t paste over them, because other users generally lay off the light poles and transformers.
In its suit in the US District Court in D.C., the group claims that it is being subjected to a “politically targeted harassment campaign” by the D.C. government and the US Park Service. It seems the Park Service detained a couple of the group’s people defacing a public park by pasting posters on it. It’s unknown whether the ACLU is involved in trying to protect the group’s right to deface public property. It is clear that the ACLU is a long-time political ally of the group.
The newspaper simply accepted A.N.S.W.E.R. at its word as an “anti-war” coalition. Had the reporter gone to its website and followed the links she would have discovered that the group favors certain wars and certain mass murderers. Several of its leaders have visited with and praised Kim Il Sung of North Korea. Its best-known organizer is Ramsay Clark, the lawyer who defended Saddam Hussein, among other tyrants whose primary virtue is virulent anti-Americanism.
A spokeswoman for D.C. injected some common sense into the discussion, saying, “The District hosts marches and protests all the time and we never weigh in on the merits of the issues, rather our role is to keep the city neat.” The law suit will probably be thrown out. But justice will not be done unless both the group and its lawyers are fined with costs for engaging in frivolous litigation and wasting the court’s time.
The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article in The Hill, published in Washington, D.C. on 21 August.
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About the Author: John Armor was a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court for 33 years, and briefed 18 cases there. John_Armor@aya.yale.edu. He is now a counsel to the American Civil Rights Union.