LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today announced a suit on behalf of Los Angeles mural artist Mike McNeilly against the City of Los Angeles demanding that the city allow the artist's patriotic murals to remain on display. The ACLU/SC suit on behalf of the artist cites his First Amendment right to engage in non-commercial political speech.

"Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we have seen Americans reaching out to each other as never before. In our own ways, many of us have sought to display both our shared love for this country, our concern for those who lost their lives, our admiration for those who have displayed uncommon courage in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us, and our devotion to the principles of freedom and democracy at the heart of our Constitution. Mike McNeilly is one such person," said Dan Tokaji, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.

A few days after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, McNeilly erected a large mural entitled "9-11" with the words "God Bless AMERICA" beneath the images of a New York City firefighter, an American Flag and the face of the Statue of Liberty. The mural was erected on a privately owned building in Westwood with the consent of the building's owner. On September 21, 2001 the City of Los Angeles issued an order asking the artist to remove the "9-11" mural. McNeilly refused to take down the mural and has recently erected a new mural entitled "Liberty and Justice 9-11".

"There is no justification for such infringements on private noncommercial speech," said Tokaji. "This is especially true when the City not only tolerates but welcomes both commercial and noncommercial artworks of comparable size on other buildings, from the many lively paintings on buildings lining Sunset Blvd., to paintings of classical musicians next to the 110 freeway downtown, to giant-sized paintings of Shaquille O'Neill and Wilt Chamberlin on a hotel near the Staples Center."

"If there is anything that we should learn from our history," said Tokaji, "it is that the values that people are so talking about these days ? freedom and democracy ? are most in jeopardy in times of crisis. Now is a time when we should be most vigilant to protect those freedoms that make this country great and that unite us as Americans."

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