Lincoln Fights Pamphlets

The city of Lincoln, Neb., is in a spirited debate about what is public versus private land. 

The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said it was considering challenging the city’s policy to keep leafleting and other public commentary off the sidewalks near .

The policy comes after the arrest of Larry Ball, who handed out religious pamphlets outside the arena during a basketball tournament. Police said Ball ventured beyond traffic barricades despite several warnings but Ball insists he was in a public area and not harassing anyone.

Lincoln authorities insist that because the arena is managed by a private company, Ball was not on public property.

However, the arena sits on property owned by the city of Lincoln and overseen by the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency.

“We obviously are interested in protecting people’s first amendment rights and to use some of the Haymarket space,” Lincoln City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick, who helped draft the policy, said. “But we also recognize that the arena has another priority, which is to provide safe and efficient access to arena events. And the arena policy, I believe, accommodates both those goals.” ALCU Legal Director Amy Miller said the city “has failed to acknowledge the right of all residents to communicate ideas on a public sidewalk.”

Miller added that not only is the ACLU preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Ball but is taking additional complaints from those who want to exercise their First Amendment rights outside of the arena.