LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, a Las Vegas street performer, and two 18-year-olds are suing the City of Las Vegas and the Fremont Street Experience, saying portions of the city’s code violate the First Amendment.
On July 7, the Fremont Street Experience applied for a special event permit, which would allow them to implement restrictions, including restricted access to anyone 21 or younger and restricting street performers every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. The permit is in effect until Nov. 28, according to the lawsuit.
The special event permit was approved on July 12, specifically stating that the special event will be for “Festivus.” In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs state “Festivus” has not been advertised on any media or marketing materials or on physical signs on Fremont Street.
According to the lawsuit, the special event permit allows the Fremont Street Experience to create restrictions against street performers and visitors under the age of 21 that violate the First Amendment.
The lawsuit continues to explain how the Fremont Street pedestrian mall is a traditional public forum where First Amendment rights are at their “strongest.” However, the plaintiffs argue that a city code has restricted and regulated core First Amendment activities including, solicitation, expressive activity and performing arts from which the Fremont Street Experience itself is exempt.
They argue that the LVMC Chapter 11.68 favors FSE’s expressive activities over others by requiring street performers to stop the performance if FSE is hosting a concert of canopy light show.
The lawsuit also states that LVMC Chapter 11.68 has unlawfully empowered FSE to regulate the expressive activities of other people in a public forum. FSE is authorized to change the locations where other people can perform, shut down the entire pedestrian mall to the general public, and sue those they say violated the regulations.
The lawsuit alleges that the city uses excuses like overcrowding and noisiness to justify the regulations, however, no street performer is as loud or causes as much overcrowding as the FSE itself, documents said.
The plaintiffs argue that the lack of regulation on FSE and the over-regulation of street performers inherently favors commercial speech over artistic and political speech which is in violation of the First Amendment.
The lawsuit also addresses the age restriction against people under the age of 21.
The City of Las Vegas already has a city-wide curfew in place for those under the age of 18, however, the lawsuit argues that the unconstitutional curfew stems from the special event permit that was granted to the FSE.
Despite the Las Vegas City Council Recommending Committee expressing reservations about an imposed curfew on adults, the FSE continues to ban those under the age of 21 from entering on certain days and times, pointing to the “Festivus” permit, the lawsuit said.
City councilors declined to impose a 21-and-under curfew for Fremont Street last month following a murder and an unrelated shooting.
The lawsuit argues that the special event listed within the permit, “Festivus,” is an unadvertised and fake five-month-long event that was created solely to create to unconstitutional restrictions.
The plaintiffs are seeking an order declaring portions of the LVMC Chapter 11.68 and actions taken by the City of Las Vegas and FSE as void and unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment. They are also seeking costs and attorney’s fees.
“It is the city’s practice not to comment on pending or ongoing litigation,” said spokesperson for the city of Las Vegas Jace Radke when asked for comment.