According to Arlington law, demonstrators can't hand out literature to drivers who are not parked. It would seem, then, that distributing anything -- even pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution -- at busy intersections is out of the question. But earlier this year, that's exactly what members of Open Carry Tarrant County did -- and they did it with long guns strapped to their shoulders.
Police responded and, with armed men yelling at them, ticketed two members. Arlington responded, adding a few lines to its original law making it more difficult for demonstrators to distribute pamphlets. The OCTC guys said this violated their First Amendment rights, so they sued Arlington in late May. And yesterday the group won a temporary victory.
A federal judge on Monday ordered Arlington to not enforce its law banning pamphlet-distribution while the suit is pending. In his ruling, the judge wrote that Arlington streets are traditional public forums and protected by the First Amendment. OCTC's "attempts to distribute copies of the Constitution and gun rights literature on Arlington's streets and sidewalks is 'precisely the kind of speech in precisely the kind of place that the First Amendment aims to protect most,'" the judge wrote, quoting a previous ruling about the KKK's ability to demonstrate in a public place.
The judge also wrote that Arlington's argument about the law maintaining public safety was not enough of a significant government interest to limit free speech in a public forum, such as a sidewalk next to a busy intersection.
The group, understandably, is happy and has plans to celebrate. They wrote on their Facebook page: "In recognition of [Monday's] ruling, Open Carry Tarrant County will hold an event this Thursday in Arlington at 6 p.m. The group will convene at the Home Depot on Road to Six Flags. We will then walk to the corner of Collins and Road to Six Flags."
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