Members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) will still be allowed to distribute flyers to motorists in Desloge, Missouri, but they will have to do so from the sidewalk, the Riverfront Times reports.
The KKK has been battling the town over the flyer distribution for almost two years now. First, they successfully challenged a 1999 ordinance prohibiting the distribution of flyers while standing in the roadways. In April 2014, the town countered with another ordinance, which a higher court also struck down.
But in August of 2013, Desloge tweaked the ordinance in a manner that put public safety — and not First Amendment issues — at the core of the ordinance, and hired an expert to determine whether it was possible to safely distribute materials while standing in traffic.
The city sought to prohibit the practice by claiming that it results “the person in the Roadway being struck by the vehicle during its operation, or the vehicle striking another vehicle or property in an effort to avoid the person in the Roadway.” Solicitation of flyers was banned on the entire “Roadway,” which the city defined as “from one curb or pavement edge to another, including parking lanes.”
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that with the new justification for the ordinance, the “record here does not indicate that the city’s real motive for curtailing speech activities was to discriminate against particular messages.”
The court decided that “[t]he traffic safety concerns the city identified as its reasons for the ordinance are present whenever a pedestrian steps into the roadway to distribute materials to a vehicle occupant,” then offered the Klan suggestions as to where the it could distribute its flyers.
“[G]roups can distribute leaflets to drivers who stop at the edge of a road, pedestrians can stand on a sidewalk to distribute, and the Klan can make its leaflets at other locations in the city.”