Law
2:52 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Benton Harbor tickets protestors for being too noisy, ACLU asks judge to dismiss

The ACLU is asking a Berrien County judge to dismiss charges against three protestors who were ticketed for being too noisy during the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor last May.

The three were taking part in a larger protest against the golf championship, the development of a city park, and the city’s emergency manager.

“Free speech is the basis of our democracy and the right to protest is at the heart of that. And these types of laws, especially when they’re applied to public protest are incredibly dangerous to free speech,” ACLU staff attorney Miriam Aukerman said.

Two of the three protestors were issued tickets after ringing a bicycle horn. The third blew an air horn. All of the protestors were in a public park near the golf course where the tournament was taking place, and say they received no warning from police before their arrests.

"There’s no way that these protestors could know that tooting a bicycle horn in a public place in the middle of the afternoon; there’s no way that they could know that that’s a crime,” Aukerman said.

Aukerman says the law is unconstitutional and is asking a Berrien County judge to dismiss the charges.

They face up to ninety days in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor charges.

The attorney representing the City of Benton Harbor in the case declined to comment.

Benton Harbor is currently under the control of a state-appointed emergency financial manager.

“The fact that in the face of the financial crisis the city is using really limited resources to target peaceful protestors and the expense of trying to defend the constitutionality of this law I think it’s shameful. It’s a shameful waste of public resources,” Aukerman said.