CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - On Monday, Feb. 29, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri issued a permanent injunction in Clary v. Cape Girardeau that prohibits the city from enforcing part of its unconstitutional "noise" ordinance.
The law strictly prohibits "noise-producing activity," which it vaguely defines to include "yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on any public street so as to annoy, disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of any persons in the vicinity."
City Manager Scott Meyer says Section 9 of the ordinance will be removed, and police will not be enforcing it until then.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed the suit on behalf of David Clary after a verbal exchange between Clary and Cape Girardeau police officer Matthew Peters.
After receiving a citation for making an illegal turn, Clary allegedly used strong language to express his displeasure to Officer Peters. Officer Peters then arrested Clary, citing his profanity as "noise-producing activity," despite the fact that he was not audible beyond 50 feet.
A trial will be held to determine the damages resulting from Clary's 2013 arrest under the unconstitutional ordinance.
"When free speech is greatly restricted to language deemed palatable or acceptable to those in power, it is no longer free," said Jeffrey A. Mittman, ACLU of Missouri executive director. "Indeed, some of the most profound acts of free speech in our nation's history annoyed and disturbed the comfort of those in power."
"The protections afforded by the First Amendment were expressly created to protect people from being arrested for saying what they think to government officials," said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. "The right to express dissatisfaction to a police officer without facing arrest or punishment is what separates us from other nations."