Constitutional Law

Will federal judge kill suit over costumed 'zombie' protest of 'corpse of a power plant'?


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A federal judge in Knoxville, Tenn., is scheduled to hear next week a motion to dismiss a complaint filed by government meeting protesters over a no-costume policy that they say prevented them from exercising their First Amendment right to speak. The subject of their protest was a plan to complete what they call the “corpse of a power plant,” the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in northern Alabama, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports.

Among the protesters at the August 2011 meeting of the Tennessee Valley Authority board was attorney Chris Irwin, who showed up in a zombie costume and makeup. He and five other plaintiffs allege that an uncostumed member of their group, Matt Jones, was ejected from the meeting after he made a joke about zombies, followed by a low moaning noise, during his comments to the board, the newspaper recounts. The ejection, the plaintiffs say, as well as the TVA’s no-costume rule, chilled their right to free speech.

The TVA contends in its motion to dismiss that wearing a costume does not constitute speech protected under the First Amendment and says that the no-costume policy also is a necessary security measure at meetings.

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