ACLU fights for right to print handbills free of police scrutiny

Police in Poplar Bluff, Missouri unlawfully took matters in their own hands in an effort to identify and intimate a resident protesting a public project:

ST. LOUIS, MO — Sunday, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a suit against the City of Poplar Bluff for an unconstitutional ordinance regarding the distribution of handbills without a permit and advance written consent of the operators of each vehicle. The ACLU is representing Brian Becker, who feared arrest after distributing handbills opposing a local $20 million bond initiative for sewer upgrades.

Earlier this month, a Poplar Bluff Police Department officer cited Becker for placing handbills on vehicles without a permit. The officer also wanted to know who provided the handbills, but Becker declined to answer. A Poplar Bluff officer went to the local Office Depot, but employees refused to voluntarily turn over any records regarding who had printed the handbills. Later that evening, an officer with a warrant seized a note with the name and cell phone number of the person who copied the handbills, a receipt, two proofs of the handbills and a thumb drive with digital images of the original handbill design.


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