Censorship

New Orleans Threatens Man with Jail for Mural Replicating Trump's Crass 'Grab Them by the Pussy' Comments

ACLU steps in to fight zoning regulations that appear to let officials veto art based on content.

|

Trump mural
Courtesy of ACLU

A property owner in New Orleans is being threatened with fines and even jail time for hosting a mural visually recreating a famous—and famously crass—quote by President Donald Trump about grabbing women by their lady parts.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Louisiana has filed suit to protect Neal Morris, the property owner, from any punishment from the City of New Orleans for not getting the city's approval to paint some controversial speech on a mural on a warehouse he owns.

According to the ACLU complaint, Morris commissioned a mural on his property last November that partly illustrated parts of the now-well-known quotes by Trump recorded by Access Hollywood: "I moved on her like a bitch. She's now got big phony tits and everything. I just start kissing them. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy."

Prior to commissioning the mural, Morris visited City Hall in New Orleans to find out what their approval process was for murals. According to the ACLU lawsuit, the city was unable to provide the information he was seeking, so he went forward with the mural.

After the mural went up, he started getting press coverage. That's when he got a threatening letter from the City of New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. The letter informed him that his mural violated city zoning laws. Murals were not permitted in residential historic districts. The letter further threatened him with possible fines and jail time for each day the mural remained up.

However, the ACLU says the section of code Morris is accused of violating does not actually exist. The city's zoning laws do not have a section on prohibited signs and does not have a blanket prohibition on murals in historic districts. Morris sent a letter to the city asking for clarification and received no response.

The city does have rules for putting up murals, even if they apparently couldn't explain them to Morris when he asked for them. The rules themselves present other legal issues. The city requires murals to go through an extensive advance review process that includes approval of the contents of the mural. Failure to properly navigate the city's approval process can lead to minimum fines of $500 and a maximum of 150 days of jail time.

The ACLU argues that "any person who exercises her right to free expression by painting a mural on her property—without first obtaining government permission—faces criminal punishment. This is, by definition, a prior restraint on speech." They further note that the mural regulations are selectively enforced. A mural by Yoko Ono was recently painted on the side of a museum without going through any sort of permitting process.

The ACLU also argues this permitting system lacks due process, has undefined standards, and lacks a transparent process by which people get murals approved. Essentially the lawsuit argues that people who want to put up murals are subject to the whims of unaccountable government officials. And they treat murals differently from signs so they can charge more money ($500 vs. $265).

Morris and the ACLU are seeking an injunction stopping New Orleans from enforcing the mural permitting process.

This is far from the first time that sign permitting processes have been used to try to censor politically oriented speech or art. The City of St. Louis tangled with Jim Roos and tried to use sign ordinances to make him remove a massive mural on the side of a building protesting the abuse of eminent domain. Ultimately the city lost the battle when a federal appeals court ruled in 2011 that their restrictions were "impermissibly content-based."

NEXT: City Threatens to Sue Online Gadfly for Complaining About Bad Smells

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The ACLU has to walk a fine line of being for this guy’s freedom of speech, without somehow simultaneously arguing that he has property rights. It’s a lot harder job than you could probably imagine.

    1. Good! That’s good!

  2. “crass”

    You misspelled “classy”. So classy. Tremendous.

    1. Certain people have said, “the most classy”. And they would know, I promise you.

  3. Nola is truly a hive of scum and villainy, and their government is definitely no exception to that.

    Still, best police acronym ever: N.O.P.D.


    1. The city does have rules for putting up murals, even if they apparently couldn’t explain them to Morris when he asked for them.

      This is pretty much government in a nutshell. There are rules, but no one knows what they are until after they’re broken much of the time.

  4. ” . . . the ACLU says the section of code Morris is accused of violating does not actually exist.”

    How many lawyers did it take to figure out that one?

    1. Does not exist yet.

      I am sure after this is over the city won’t let THAT loophole stay open.

    2. Just one. Me. I received the violation notice. The first thing I did (other than note the threat of jail) was pull up the code to see which sections they were accusing me of violating. It doesn’t exist. I wasn’t surprised. I hadn’t had much success in researching the applicable law.

  5. However, the ACLU says the section of code Morris is accused of violating does not actually exist. The city’s zoning laws do not have a section on prohibited signs and does not have a blanket prohibition on murals in historic districts. Morris sent a letter to the city asking for clarification and received no response.

    Well of course he received no response. The city is busy writing that prohibition into their zoning laws and pretending like it was there the whole time. Patience!

  6. “I’m finishing my coffee.”

  7. The city does have rules for putting up murals, even if they apparently couldn’t explain them to Morris when he asked for them. The rules themselves present other legal issues. The city requires murals to go through an extensive advance review process that includes approval of the contents of the mural. Failure to properly navigate the city’s approval process can lead to minimum fines of $500 and a maximum of 150 days of jail time.

    The law is the law, and this criminal violated the law, so he deserves to be punished.

    I thought Libertarians believed in the rule of law?

    1. I thought Libertarians believed in the rule of law?

      Only on immigration.

      1. Except for all the open borders libertarians…

        1. And the ones who smoke pot or except cash for work without reporting it…

    2. So if a law violates constitutional protections on your natural rights, it means that your natural rights at the one’s at fault? I don’t think any ‘Libertarian’ believes that.

      1. Do persons have the natural right to move about freely?

        (Asking for a friend)

        1. “move about freely?”

          No. They can’t, for instance, cross private property without permission.

          1. Who’s the landlord for the Rio Grande?

        2. When was the last time you were stopped on your way into Mexico and not allowed to enter? How many Mexican tourists are arrested each year by ICE?

          My arguments against immigration have always been that our nation decided a long time ago to enact things like expansive labor protections and welfare programs that are incongruent with things like unlimited immigration, but you keep talking natural rights out of one side of your face while decrying other natural rights out of the other, idjit.

          1. You might be surprised to know that I think your restrictionist argument is sound.

          2. Can’t the same argument be made for “unlimited citizen birthing”? Since we have welfare and all that, are we not required to place a limit on the number of kids people can crap out?

            Of course kids, like immigrants, make the population skew younger and thus our mostly old-age related programs more solvent, but don’t let that reality get in the way of your completely unjustified assumptions.

            1. I made this argument in the past as well. That is why calls to restrict immigration based on the fact that we have welfare are utterly retarded.


            2. Can’t the same argument be made for “unlimited citizen birthing”? Since we have welfare and all that, are we not required to place a limit on the number of kids people can crap out?

              So here we have an example of you not realizing how the Ponzi scheme works. If you have a welfare state you must necessarily limit who is eligible for those benefits, and you also need a large population of payers to support the transfer payments. Hence why illegal immigration is a net positive for progressives in particular, because they are ineligible for the benefits while paying into the program.

              Amusingly, Progressives have always been the mortal enemy of the immigrant. The only reason why they’re at all in favor of illegal immigration in particular is because it serves their agenda to create a permanent underclass. You see, if they become legal immigrants their ‘benefit’ literally evaporates.

              Of course, citizens in particular are the very one’s the bill of rights applies to so the governments hand is limited concerning the citizenry, or at least it was intended to be limited. The same can’t be said for non-citizens. It’s only the retards that think citizenship is meaningless or that borders aren’t real that miss the obvious applicability.

              1. Replace progressive with Republican and your tale reflects reality. Cheap labor for their business friends and they don’t get to vote! And they get a brown menace to scare voters with as the cherry on top.

                Democrats haven’t been only pretending to want to do comprehensive reform all this time. As with everything else good and decent in the world, Republicans won’t let them do it.

            3. Can’t the same argument be made for “unlimited citizen birthing”? Since we have welfare and all that, are we not required to place a limit on the number of kids people can crap out?

              I would suggest that “welfare mothers” should be allotted a maximum of two children while on welfare. More that that, the cost is on themselves.

              Here’s where the Republicans/Conservatives should be supporting birth control and abortion, rather than fighting it so intensely. Birth control has to be significantly cheaper than supporting welfare children up to adulthood, abortions would be much the same. It’s not like those welfare children are likely to become part of the Republican voting block.

        3. Yes, they so, contrary to the propertarians.

  8. A property owner in New Orleans is being threatened…for hosting a mural visually recreating a famous…quote by President Donald Trump about grabbing women by their lady parts.

    He better put some ice on that.

  9. That is the worst-drawn picture of a pussy I have ever seen. I think the margins of my third-grade math book did better than that.

  10. Seems like a PICTURE case to me.

  11. Is that really a mural? Looks more like a sign to me.

  12. Nobody’s pointed it out yet but Shaquille’s alt text is, as always, delightful.

  13. New Orleans Threatens Man with Jail for Mural Replicating Trump’s Crass ‘Grab Them by the Pussy’ Comments

    Does the fact that I can totally see this as being a better sign of the election of someone like Dr. Dre or Ice T make Trump more post-racial than Obama? Like “Fuck tha Police” sounds like a serious political platform and no amount of “jockin the bitches and slappin’ the hoes” is going to be able to detract from it.

  14. This is totally historic people. Read this part again:

    “The ACLU argues that “any person who exercises her right to free expression by painting a mural on her property?without first obtaining government permission?faces criminal punishment. ”

    The ACLU officially acknowledged the importance of PROPERTY!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.