Western Wisconsin town bans signs hung on overpass, says anti-Obama protest distracts drivers

  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: November 1, 2013 - 9:35 AM
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Some western Wisconsin residents have been holding anti-Obama protests on interstate overpasses, like this one in Chattanooga, Tenn. earlier this month.

Photo: Angela Lewis, Associated Press - Ap

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CAMPBELL, Wis. — Town of Campbell officials have riled some western Wisconsin residents by banning signs on a pedestrian overpass over Interstate 90.

Protesters began hanging signs and flags on the bridge in August as part of the Overpasses for Obama's Impeachment movement, La Crosse Tribune reported Friday (http://bit.ly/16rXCWX ). The signs encourage drivers to honk if they favor removing President Barack Obama from office.

Campbell officials said they've received calls about the noise and number of people on the bridge, especially during the evening commute, and that led to safety concerns.

"It was really turning into this big event," police chief Tim Kelemen said.

Town Chairman Scott Johnson described the protests as a dangerous distraction for drivers traveling at least 55 mph, particularly given construction in the area.

"People living over there," he added, "have a right to peace and quiet, too."

To remedy the problem, the town board approved two ordinances in October that prohibit the display of signs, flags, banners and other items within 100 feet of the bridge. The rules have angered protesters, who say the ban violates their right to free speech.

"They're hiding behind safety as an excuse," protester Tony Curtis said.

The town already limits homeowners to one 2-by-2-foot sign in their yards to express their views, Curtis said. And the bridge provides more exposure for protesters' message than alternative locations town officials may approve, he added.

Protesters, who have vowed to fight the ban in court, held a rally on Oct. 25 so that they could videotape a police officer asking them to leave before they received $132 tickets.

Johnson and Kelemen said the ban was based on a Madison ordinance that already has been upheld in court. They also stressed that the ban was not motivated by politics or support for the president.

"I think what they're doing is OK," Kelemen said. "There's just a time and a place and a location for everything."

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