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ACLU files lawsuit over city leafleting ordinance

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The American Civil Liberties Union in St. Louis has filed a federal First Amendment lawsuit over the city's anti-leafleting ordinance.

The ordinance in question bans people from putting commercial or political fliers on cars. The lawsuit follows the arrest of a man who was leafleting in support of an effort to put legislation authorizing a massive redevelopment project in north St. Louis on the ballot.

The city prosecutor dropped the case, but that was only because officers charged the man under the wrong ordinance, said ACLU legal director Tony Rothert.

"So it certainly is reasonable to fear that people would be arrested in the future, only next time the police will put the right ordinance down," he said.

Rothert said it's tough to show that the ordinance, which is in the chapter on littering in the city code, addresses some important government issues,

"Perhaps more serious is that this type of leafleting is a very efficient and effective way of reaching a large number of people in a short amount of time and inexpensively," Rothert said. "By taking out that whole category of speech, the ordinance really does not leave open ample alternative ways of getting the message out."

Both the city and the police would not comment on pending litigation.

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