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Organizers of youth climate rally sue UDOT over restrictions
ACLU • Lawsuit says onerous demands restrict free speech.

By Melinda Rogers The Salt Lake Tribune

Published May 2, 2011 3:17 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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A youth organization focused on climate change has filed a lawsuit against the Utah Department of Transportation, claiming the agency is putting unconstitutional restrictions on a rally planned for Saturday.

iMatter Utah, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties of Utah, filed a lawsuit against UDOT on Monday, claiming the agency is forcing rally organizers to carry an expensive insurance policy to hold the march.

UDOT also requested iMatter Utah to obtain advance waivers and releases those who plan to attend the Saturday march. The ACLU claims the requirement infringes on the free-speech rights of those who may not join the rally until the last minute.

"UDOT's mandate that iMatter Utah must know weeks in advance each and every person who will attend renders compliance by iMatter Utah, or any group organizing a political protest or rally in response to world events, functionally impossible," said Darcy Goddard, legal director for the ACLU of Utah.

Saturday's event is part of 47 marches planned in 23 states and six countries, according to iMatter's website, http://www.imattermarchutah.org. The movement began with 16-year-old Alec Loorz, of Ventura, Calif., who founded a nonprofit organization for kids to learn about science and climate change after watching former Vice President Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth."

Utah activists planned a parade and march — dubbed a "Marade" — for May 7. The group expects 50 to 100 people to attend the Marade, in which participants will walk from the federal courthouse at 125 S. State St. to the Live Green Salt Lake City Festival at Library Square.

Some in the group will push "human-powered floats," according to the iMatter Website. Judges will award prizes for the float-contest participants as part of the Live Green Festival.

Salt Lake City issued a "free expression" permit for the Marade, which included a traffic management plan conditional on UDOT approval.

UDOT declined the application unless iMatter Utah bought an insurance policy estimated to cost at least $2,500 for the event, Goddard said. UDOT also asked the group for the waivers — a requirement participants in traditional city parades, such as the annual Days of '47 and St. Patrick's Day parades, must complete.

"UDOT's requirements would make it impossible for an unfunded, youth-driven group like iMatter Utah to ever assemble and exercise its free speech rights on State Street itself," said Lauren Wood, an event coordinator listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

High school student Sara Ma said she joined her first political rally after seeing protesters while riding on TRAX one day.

"My friends, and anyone else who is interested, should have the same right and ability to participate [in a rally] as I did that day on TRAX," she said.

In addition to the ACLU, attorneys Brian Barnard and Stewart Gollan of the Utah Legal Clinic will represent iMatter Utah in the case. A spokesman for UDOT reached on Monday afternoon said the agency plans to release a statement after having a chance to thoroughly review the lawsuit.

mrogers@sltrib.com



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