When a festival or special event takes over part of your town, it does not cancel the protections guaranteed under the First Amendment.
In past years, free speech at Musikfest was confined to a single area. People were not permitted to hold banners on the bridges that overlook the festival — and an independent reporter was ordered to stop interviewing guests and shop owners on Main Street.
In response to a query from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee of the Lehigh Valley, the ACLU of Pennsylvania researched the issue and notified the City and ArtsQuest that such interference with free speech is not acceptable.
Here’s an excerpt from the ACLU’s letter:
As the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has recently held, the existence of a permit to use public property does not allow the permit holder (or the police) to restrict free speech activities that do not obstruct the permitted activity. If we receive complaintes that activists are being told they cannot engage in non-obstructive speech in non-ticketed areas of Musikfest, we will immediately seek relief from a federal judge.
This means you can carry signs or distribute leaflets at any of the public spaces, provided that you do not obstruct others or interfere with their freedom of movement or speech, and do not interfere with people’s ability to enjoy an event or performance. You can download a copy of the full letter below.
The United States is a free speech zone!
For more information, email the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
Free Speech at Musikfest [PDF]