The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (“ACLU”) has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of the ACLU’s members and Maui plaintiffs Chuck Carletta and Mele Stokesberry. The suit, against the County of Maui (“County”), seeks immediate changes to County laws that prohibit people from displaying signs on sidewalks and along roadways.

At issue is Maui County Code section 12.42.030, which prohibits sign-waving within 50 feet of any traffic control signal, twenty feet of a pedestrian crosswalk, or six feet of the edge of the pavement or other surface of the highway.

In January 2013, the County threatened to enforce this ordinance against a group of protesters. At the same time, however, the County’s own police officers violate these laws by regularly holding demonstrations about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving; indeed, just a few months before threatening to enforce the ordinance against the Plaintiffs and other protesters, Maui Police Department officers had engaged in sign-waving with children and adults along busy Maui roads.

The ACLU contacted Maui County to amend the unlawful ordinance. The County refused, leading to today’s lawsuit.

Maui Peace Action activist Chuck Carletta, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said:  “More than any other holiday, Martin Luther King day is a meaningful time to exercise our rights to free speech. It is also a day to celebrate Dr. King and the civil rights and peace movements that he sacrificed his life for. We were stunned when we found out that the Maui County Police department was threatening to issue tickets to anyone in this year’s march carrying a sign with any written messages!”

Mele Stokesberry, Maui Peace Action founder and a co-plaintiff in the case stated:  “We have participated in many marches on Maui, and we have always carried signs expressing our ideas as we saw fit.  We carried our signs in the march in January, as did many others, in spite of the threats and we are delighted that the ACLU of Hawaii is willing to stand up for us and to seek to overturn this egregious ordinance.”

“The law at issue is so broad that it effectively prohibits campaign sign-waving, protests, picketing, parades, or other demonstrations across large portions of three islands,” said ACLU of Hawaii Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Gluck. “It is illegal for County officials to enforce these rules against some protesters but not against others, and it is illegal for the County to allow police officers to break the rules for messages the County supports.”

Read the complaint here:  Complaint, ACLU v. Maui County