(New York – May 7, 2020) – Today, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), a national public interest law firm, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his police commissioner.
The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of political activist Pamela Geller, challenges Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement that, pursuant to his executive orders, the First Amendment no longer applies in the City of New York as he has made it unlawful to peaceably assemble and protest.
Geller is an author, a conservative blogger, and champion for the First Amendment. In addition to successfully challenging government restrictions on free speech in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Seattle, she was the organizer of the successful public protest of the Ground Zero mosque construction in Lower Manhattan.
But for Mayor de Blasio’s suspension of the First Amendment, Geller would organize and participate in a public protest of de Blasio’s policies, including the draconian restrictions he has imposed upon fundamental liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As alleged in the lawsuit:
“Public protests are an effective way to change public policy, particularly during this current COVID-19 pandemic. For example, shortly following a large public protest outside of the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, the Michigan Governor eased many of the restrictions that fueled the protest, realizing that her political power and future were in jeopardy as a result of her exceedingly unpopular decisions. Other similar protests have sprung up in major cities across the country. Through the First Amendment Restriction, Defendant de Blasio seeks to silence such opposition to his policies so that he can retain his political power over the City and its residents. Consequently, the First Amendment Restriction operates to suppress those viewpoints that oppose efforts by government officials, which specifically includes Defendant de Blasio’s efforts, to control people’s lives and restrict their liberty during the COVID-19 pandemic—a viewpoint shared by Plaintiff Geller.”
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi commented:
“Our natural political liberties, enshrined and protected by the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, do not go on vacation or in hiding or on lock-down during times of crisis. Government has a role to play in protecting the public health to be sure. But when it exercises this authority, granted by the People, it must act surgically and most carefully when restricting our protected civil liberties—Freedom of Speech and Assembly, first among all. It is high time Mayor de Blasio and his police commissioner understand that they do not rule by mere fiat.”
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise added:
“Too many leftwing, progressive politicians like Mayor de Blasio see this current pandemic as an opportunity to impose draconian restrictions on fundamental rights and liberty. Mayor de Blasio’s latest effort to suspend the First Amendment in the City of New York is one of the most egregious restrictions we have seen. It is unfathomable that a government official’s thirst for power would go this far. He needs to be stopped, and we intend to do so.”