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Dallas stifles 'Impeach Obama' protesters

A new Dallas ordinance restricting speech critical of President Obama is the target of a lawsuit by the nonprofit Thomas More Law Center.

The activist group Overpasses for America is “being stifled” by the ordinance, adopted Jan. 22 by the Dallas City Council, which bars them from using certain public locations to criticize Obama and call for his impeachment, TMLC said.

The law imposes fines of up to $500 for “certain expressive activities on pedestrian overpasses over designated highways,” the legal team said.

“This is another example of a city silencing the message of a certain viewpoint in a traditional public forum without legal justification,” said TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Erin Mersino.

“Here, there is no history that plaintiffs’ speech imposed any public safety threat. Such an invalid restriction on free speech curtails all of our free speech freedoms and wrongfully imperils one of our inalienable rights as Americans,” she said.

Overpasses for America is a nonpartisan grassroots effort calling the nation’s leaders to accountability.

It uses pedestrian overpasses to spread its messages.

The organization held dozens of protests in the Dallas area before the ordinance was adopted, setting them up in cooperation with Dallas police and others.

Then came the ordinance, which was approved “under the guise that it was necessary for traffic safety and the safety of police officers,” the legal team explained.

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“However, the lack of any real safety issue was highlighted during the council debate on the ordinance when the Dallas chief of police, pressed by Councilman Phillip Kingston, could not point to any instance in which an OfA protest caused an accident,” the complaint says.

The group held a demonstration March 1 on the Northaven overpass over the Dallas North Tollway, but when volunteers called to make arrangements for March 15, they were told police would enforce the speech ban.

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“The viewpoints of a majority of Americans on crucial public issues are no longer expressed by their elected representatives,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center. “The concerns of a majority of Americans seem to have little impact on the decisions made by politicians who are more concerned with appeasing lobbyists, special interest groups, and wealthy donors.”

Thompson said that’s why “it’s so important to defend the free speech rights of grassroots organizations like Overpasses for America, whose members feel it’s their patriotic duty to stand for hours on these overpasses to get their message out and mobilize their fellow citizens.”

The ordinance makes it an offense to engage in any conduct, including holding a sign, intended to distract a motorist. It also bars wearing any clothing intended to attract the attention of the public.

The lawsuit alleges the speech ban is an unconstitutional burden on plaintiffs’ rights, is overbroad and vague, fails to further public interests and has silenced the activists’ speech.

It alleges violations freedom of speech and the right to peaceable assemble.

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Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., told WTIB’s “Talk of the Town” program recently that House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to sue Barack Obama in court probably is a non-starter.

“Use the Constitution,” he said on the Greenville, North Carolina, radio program this week. “That’s what it’s there for.

“I am one that believes sincerely that the Constitution says that when a president, be it a Republican or a Democrat, when a president exceeds his authority and you can’t stop the president from exceeding his authority then we do have what’s called impeachment,” he told the station.

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