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Super Bowl organizers concede free press rights to homeless

In the days and weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVI, the City of Indianapolis transformed itself from an ordinary Midwestern municipality to an urban center anticipating worldwide attention and unprecedented levels of excitement. Along with the hundreds of thousands of visitors who flooded downtown—causing retailers and restaurateurs to drool at the prospects—the transformed region presented a boon for expressive activity at the heart of the First Amendment's freedoms.

Among those wishing to capitalize on this torrent of visitors was Homeward Bound News, Inc., a nonprofit organization that publishes a street newspaper, which they provide to homeless or indigent people to sell in public places for a small profit.

But in December 2011, during the Big Ten Championship football game, Indianapolis ejected the sellers from the area, citing a "Clean Zone" regulation that effectively blocked this expressive activity for a mile in every direction from Lucas Oil Stadium.

The transformed region presented a boon for expressive activity at the heart of the First Amendment's freedoms.

On Jan. 11, 2012, around 10 a.m., the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit claiming a First Amendment violation, Homeward Bound News, Inc. v. City of Indianapolis, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. By 3:49 p.m. the City had capitulated and agreed to allow the newspaper sales.

Much is written of favorable—and unfavorable—court decisions we receive. This focus is no doubt vital to a complete understanding of what we do. But attempts to remedy some of the most egregious constitutional violations never get that far. On these occasions, too, the ACLU of Indiana and its clients stand stalwart.

Note: This article is excerpted from Gavin M. Rose, "Super Bowl Organizers Concede Free Press Right to Homeless," Carrying the Torch, Vol. 12.1, Spring 2012, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

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