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ACLU files federal lawsuit challenging Strip pedestrian bridge law

Updated February 16, 2024 - 8:10 pm

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a federal lawsuit on Friday challenging a new county ordinance banning stopping or standing on the Strip’s pedestrian bridges.

The lawsuit alleges that the county ordinance, which was approved in early January, violates the First Amendment rights of street performers who perform, solicit tips or hand out leaflets on the pedestrian bridges.

“Making criminals out of ordinary people that stop for just a few seconds on a publicly funded pedestrian bridge, which is where First Amendment rights — generally, individual rights — are strongest, is problematic,” said ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah.

Clark County spokesperson Jennifer Cooper said the county is unable to comment on pending litigation.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Brandon Summers, a violinist who has performed on the Strip since 2009, and Lisa McAllister, a who uses a wheelchair because of a spinal injury and uses the pedestrian bridges to travel through the Strip corridor.

McAllister is at danger of being prosecuted under the county ordinance, the lawsuit alleges, if she stops while on the pedestrian bridges.

“Due to her disability, Plaintiff McAllister often must stop unexpectedly,” the lawsuit said. “For example, she must stop when there is a mechanical malfunction with her wheelchair, her arms tire from using her wheelchair, or when her vision of her path is blocked by other people who are walking in front of her.”

The complaint also argues that the ordinance violates the Fourteenth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ordinance was approved unanimously last month by Clark County commissioners despite pushback by the ACLU of Nevada and community members.

County officials and the Metropolitan Police Department said the law is meant to maintain public safety by ensuring continuous movement across the bridges.

The county also argued that the ordinance does not limit First Amendment activity because street performers and others can participate in speech on the sidewalk below the bridges.

Those waiting to use a stairway, elevator or escalator are not in violation of the law.

Those found in violation of the law could be charged with a misdemeanor, which could result in a penalty of up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

After the ordinance was approved, Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the law won’t be enforced against people who are stopping to take pictures on the bridges, which was echoed by the county in a statement released after the law’s passage.

The ACLU’s lawsuit alleges that the ordinance is too vague and “invites seriously discriminatory enforcement” of the law.

In a statement, Haseebullah said Friday that the ordinance is “among the most extreme regulations brought forth in years,” and makes “harmless conduct illegal.”

“The county has gone to great lengths to defend this terrible ordinance publicly, even issuing public statements mentioning selfie-takers won’t be targeted under the ordinance, even though they are encompassed by the ordinance’s language, creating a lack of clarity about what conduct is even prohibited by the ordinance,” Haseebullah was quoted in the statement. “Due process requires clarity about prohibited conduct and that laws are not selectively enforced.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on X.

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