Judge to consider freedom of speech case

Jan 21, 2013

(PROVIDENCE, RI) A federal judge will hear arguments Tuesday on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a woman who ran into police interference while trying to leaflet outside a political event.

Three years ago Providence resident Judith Reilly was distributing flyers on a public sidewalk outside where then-Mayor David Cicilline was giving his “state of the city” address. The leaflets were critical of a mayoral appointee.

Police ordered Reilly to move across the street.  She did, but then – unable to reach her target audience – moved back to in front of the Providence Career and Technical Academy where Cicilline was speaking. Police moved her back across the street. Their reasoning in court documents was that her presence might impede emergency workers. She was 25 feet from the nearest exit.

The case goes before federal judge William Smith tomorrow. The hearing is on motions for summary judgment – meaning that the case would be decided without the need for a trial.

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