Elvis impersonator, guitarist file free-speech suit against Las Vegas

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Editor's note: According to the ACLU of Nevada, negotiations in the case were still ongoing in April 2010.

LAS VEGAS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has filed a federal
civil rights lawsuit against police and public officials on behalf of two Las
Vegas Strip street performers after one was arrested in March.

ACLU lawyer Maggie McLetchie said the lawsuit was filed July 9 on behalf of
guitarist Suze Banasik and Elvis Presley impersonator Bill Jablonski to support
free speech and free expression rights for street performers on the resort-lined
Strip. The lawsuit alleges police illegally harass street performers who have a
First Amendment right to their expression.

The 45-year-old Banasik was jailed for 12 hours on obstructing a sidewalk and
operating a business without a license charges before Clark County prosecutors
dropped the charges.

The ACLU has fought and won similar First Amendment battles for handbill
distributors, political activists and street preachers on the Strip and at the
downtown Fremont Street Experience casino mall.

“They think each new type of expression they can suppress, and we have to go
to court for each of those, and the results are always the same,” ACLU attorney
Allen Lichtenstein told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“For well over a decade, there's been this attempt to make the sidewalks up
and down Las Vegas Boulevard on the Strip the private domain of the
hotel-casinos and their interests,” Lichtenstein was quoted by the newspaper as
saying. “And the fact that the police continue to think that it's more important
to serve those interests rather than to protect the rights of free speech on
those sidewalks as ordered by federal courts is disheartening.”

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