The federal district court has found that a plaintiff’s First Amendment rights were violated when she tried to distribute flyers outside an auditorium at which the former mayor of Providence was giving a speech. However, the court found there were issues of fact as to which defendants were liable for the violation and denied plaintiff’s summary judgment motion. Plaintiff sued the City of Providence, the Chief of Police and two Providence police officers.
Plaintiff and another person attempted to distribute flyers that criticized the mayor for appointing to a city commission a person accused of an ethical violation. Allegedly, the chief of police ordered that plaintiff be kept away from the building. A subordinate police officer told plaintiff she could not distribute the flyers on the city block but could do so across the street.
The court found that there was circumstantial evidence that defendants were aware of the content of her flyers. It found that ordering plaintiff to distribute the flyers across the street was not a reasonable time, place or manner restriction because there was no evidence she was obstructing the exits of the building. The court also said there were issues of fact as to which, if any, of the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity depending on whether they acted based on the content of plaintiff’s flyers and the distance they ordered plaintiff to stay from the auditorium. Reilly v. City of Providence, C.A. No. 10-461-S (D.R.I. Mar. 22, 2013).