Anti-war pamphlets deemed ok
Oct. 12, 2007
The First Amendment fight between Bill Wickersham and Maureen Doyle and the Salute to Veterans and the city of Columbia is over.
The court of appeals ruled in favor of Wickersham and Doyle, saying they were lawful when they distributed anti-war pamphlets at a Columbia air show in May.
The two were arrested at the event and later released.
At the Salute to Veteran's Annual Air show at Columbia's Regional Airport, Wickersham was circulating a clean energy petition while Doyle was passing out anti-war pamphlets.
Following their arrests, Wickersham and Doyle sued the city and Salute to Veterans.
"It is ironic that Salute to Veterans is a rights group trying to deny our First Amendment rights," Wickersham said.
The district court said Wickersham could not petition the public at the event, following a Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's ruling about non-public forums. Wickersham and Doyle then took Salute to Veterans to the court of appeals, but did not take the city.
The court of appeals ruled in favor of Wickersham and Doyle. The bulk of their legal fees totaled $260,000, and the city is being held liable for $100,000. Salute to Veterans is responsible for the rest.
To meet its part of the court's ruling, Columbia will charge Salute to Veterans $20,000 a year to rent the airstrip for the next five years, Wickersham said.
Salute to Veterans petitioned the United States Supreme Court with a writ calling for a review of the prior decision, but that was denied.
"There are no provisions to reapply," Salute to Veterans attorney Dale Doerhoff said. The courts ruled that Wickersham cannot petition at this event, but Doyle can pass out leaflets and spread her message through buttons and others items.
But everyone must be silent during the moment of silence.
"The sponsor of the event has a right to not have their message submerged by other messages," Doerhoff said.
This is not the first time Wickersham and Doyle have bee involved in cases concerning the First Amendment. Wickersham was fired from MU in 1970 after being the main faculty leader to protest the Kent State killings.
Wickersham was also fired from Columbia College for being too controversial. He sued MU for his back pay and won, and he settled out of court with Columbia College. Doyle was active with the campaign to close the School of the Americas in Columbus, Ga.
"I am a peace activist," Doyle said.
Doyle also said that she plans on attending the air show next year and distributing the same pamphlets.
"I hope at some point this becomes a learning experience," Wickersham said.