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Milford Charter Township, MI

The Kensington Metro Park Police demanded tonight that Santorum supporters remove signs placed on public park property adjacent to a public road.  Approximately 15 signs were placed on park property near the Bakers of Milford Restaurant prior to a campaign stop by Mitt Romney.

The outrageous order by the Kensington Metro Park Police violated the park’s own free speech guidelines! The guidelines state as follows: “The Authority recognizes and respects the rights of citizens engaging in free speech. Some kinds of speech such as obscenity, defamation and fighting words are not protected by the First Amendment and are prohibited to the extent governed by law. Further, no person or groups shall interfere with other people’s free speech rights. The Authority will cooperate with those engaging in protected free speech to resolve any conflict between a person’s or group’s free speech rights and any regulation of those rights….”

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When asked Friday morning about sign placement on South Milford Rd. alongside the park entrance, Huron-Clinton Metroparks Chief of Police, George Phifer stated, “When you have county roads, you shouldn’t have a problem” as long as the county approves. Indeed, political sign placement is one expressly permitted by the Milford Charter Township Code of Ordinances. The code states as follows: “Political signs promoting political parties, candidates, or proposals shall be permitted within any zoning district for a maximum of ten days after an election…”

Hundreds of Santorum signs also lined the area bordering the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant hosting Romney this evening, Chris Baker, suggested that placing signs in such proximity to Romney’s campaign stop was improper because “there’s just a little respect to events.”  When pressed for further explanation as to how the campaign signs were disrespectful, he declined to elaborate.  Dale Wiltse, Milford Township trustee, accompanied Chris Baker during the confrontation with Santorum’s supporters.  The trustee declined to comment when asked if he believed the Santorum sign placement was “disrespectful.”

Just days ago, RebelPundit  featured disturbing exclusive footage of individuals uprooting hundreds of Santorum signs lining a roadway across from a Romney campaign stop as Romney staffers erected their own signs which were left undisturbed.  Dennis Lennox, the Romney staffer filmed earlier in the week placing Romney signs as other individuals removed Santorum signs, was also spotted at the location.  Mr. Lennox declined to comment on that recent incident.  Strangely, he also refused to provide any opinion on First Amendment freedom.

How unfortunate that the police limited political speech on public property, a host for a Republican presidential candidate suggested political signage is disrespectful, and that a Romney staffer chose not to condemn the disturbing incident earlier this week. Political speech should be cherished and protected. The actions this week directed against the Santorum campaign illustrate the tremendous level of disrespect for our First Amendment freedom of speech.

3 Responses

  1. billthecat

    At the risk of being attacked as a romneybot RINO, there is a difference between free speech and signs when it comes to what the county allows. I’ve worked on campaigns and have had it made clear that political yard signs are not allowed on county property or state park property – it is that simple. It appears from the article that santorum’s signs were on metropark property – that is not allowed. People could have stood there and waved the signs – THAT is free speech. sticking a sign in the ground is not. The comment by the owner of Bakers is irrelevant and failure to comment is not an admission of guilt – what do they have to gain by engaging an opposing group? Get in an argument when all they want to do is attend their event?

    Why this ongoing suspicion about police breaking laws and failing to enforce laws (a conspiracy against Santorum?)? Isn’t the more simple and reasonable explanation that Santorum signs are placed where they are not supposed to be more plausible – even if it does not fit the anti-Romney narrative?

    Again – if police violated the law and constitutional free-speech rights there is one heck of a story there. One that could make a journalism career…

    OK – let the red-on-red commence…

    Reply
  2. Kurt Rand

    I suggest you take a look at the free speech guidelines of the park. Those guidelines make it clear that when free speech rights are at issue, the regulations can be bent. As a constitutional lawyer, I can assure you that political speech is more protected by Supreme Court precedent than commercial speech.

    I also suggest you review Hague v CIO — the public forum doctrine. Justice Roberts that although title of “streets and parks may rest in governments, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights and liberties of citizens.”

    Reply
  3. billthecat

    All of Mr. Rand’s comments are irrelevant to the issue here… they sound good though (I too am an attorney). you are misinterpreting the free speech guidelines of the park as meaning that any and all speech is allowed any and all times – that is not the case. As an attorney you know that the supreme court has countless reasonable restrictions on free speech. wouldn’t you agree that the park closing at night restricts people’s right to free speech at the park on those hours when it is closed? Likewise, the parks have restrictions on those rights by not allowing people to stick political signs in the ground on park property — this is not that complicated. regarding public forum doctrine – that does not speak to the issue of placing signs on park property without a permit or approval. Park rules prohibit it – that is a reasonable and accepted restriction on speech. People are not prohibited from assembling, talking politics, or even holding rallies (with permission and permits) on park property. public forum doctrine is not a wholesale license to stick whatever political sign you want wherever you want on public property.

    Reply

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