An anti-war group will file suit Monday afternoon claiming that the District of Columbia is infringing on its First Amendment rights by imposing $10,000 in fines for "improperly" posting fliers promoting a Sept. 15 march.
The ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition last week received notices of violation from the D.C. Department of Public Works totaling $10,000 in fines for posters announcing a march in D.C. The notices require the group to remove the posters within 72 hours.
The signs promote an anti-war march set for Sept. 15, the date that Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is scheduled to provide a progress report to President George W. Bush and Congress.
ANSWER was launched by liberal lawyer Ramsey Clark shortly after 9/11, and it largely focuses on protesting against the Bush administration's foreign policy. Many of ANSWER's leaders are politically left-wing and include, for instance, people from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a Marxist-Leninist group.
"Our posters are put up in conformity with D.C. municipal regulations, which permit and regulate the postering," Sarah Sloan, national staff organizer for the ANSWER Coalition, told Cybercast News Service. "We've done this for many years; many other groups do it. We've never been targeted like this before.
"We really consider it to be a political campaign carried out because this is a demonstration coming at a time when Bush wants to justify the continuation of the war," she added.
"Knowing that the majority of people are against the war, the last thing he wants to see is a manifestation of that opposition -- that being tens of thousands of people in the streets so that no one can deny that the people of the U.S. are against the war," Sloan stated.
According to a CBS News poll released last week, 69 percent of Americans disapprove of the Bush administration's handling of the war.
"The ANSWER Coalition will not pay one penny to the government for our First Amendment rights or to stave off their threats against us," the group said. "It's definitely an enduring issue and an issue that affects all groups that seek to exercise their free speech and First Amendment rights."
Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works, said she is not familiar with a plan to sue, but she said the fines are not out of the ordinary. "We do it every day," she said.
Grant also refuted Sloan's claims that the fines are politically motivated.
"The District of Columbia has been the host of many marches [and] protests over the years, and we never weigh in on the content of the issue," she told Cybercast News Service. "Our concern here is that the signs violate our regulations and that we are asking them to respect D.C. residents and our regulations."
Grant noted that the posters were "improperly placed" because more than three signs were posted on one side of a block, and the posters were placed on more than lampposts, which is the only place where they are allowed. The posters were also fixed to lampposts and utility boxes using "an adhesive which is not allowed." The larger posters are taking 20 to 30 minutes to remove.
"Those are false claims," countered Sloan. "They are lying and saying that we used glue, which we did not, and that it takes 20 to 30 minutes to remove which is inaccurate.
"We use a water-soluble paste. It is quick and easy to remove; you just add water. They are removing these posters to prevent people from knowing about this event," she added.
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