The ACLU of Southern California won a quick First Amendment victory over the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which attempted to deny the Ku Klux Klan the use of a public forum under its jurisdiction in Riverside. A federal judge today issued a restraining order allowing the Klan's 'Hallowcaust 2002" to proceed at Harrison Hall in Riverside County, a site owned by the public and made available to the public for various expressive activities. The event, which will include a variety of First Amendment-protected expressive activities, was scheduled for this weekend. When state officials learned that the event was connected to the Ku Klux Klan, they attempted to cancel the contract they had signed almost a month ago authorizing the hall's use. The temporary restraining order (TRO) allows the event to proceed.
'This is a classic First Amendment case,' said Peter Eliasberg, the staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California who pressed the case. 'When government gets into the business of choosing what kind of speech it will allow, the outcome is the suppression of everybody's freedom.'
'The ACLU, contrary to many conservative commentators' perceptions, does not protect only the speech of progressive groups,' said Ramona Ripston, ACLU/SC Executive Director. 'We defend the free speech rights of individuals and groups no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, from left to right and no matter how repugnant we find their message.'
The ACLU/SC will donate any court-ordered attorneys fees in the case to the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, which fights for the basic survival of those most in need, just as the ACLU/SC fights to protect basic freedoms.