The First Amendment is alive and well in New York, at least where inflated rats are concerned.
“It is abundantly clear that Local 78 has a constitutional right to use an inflatable rat,” ruled a federal judge in a recent decision, Microtech Contracting Corp. v. Hazardous Waste Laborers’ Local 78 et al. (EDNY 2014). “The defendants’ peaceful use of a stationery, inflatable rat to publicize a labor protest is protected by the First Amendment.”
Other courts have agreed that inflated rats are well-protected denizens of the Marketplace of Ideas.
“We easily conclude that a large inflatable rat is protected, symbolic speech,” squeaked the Illinois District Court.
“In our view, there is no question that the use of a rat balloon to publicize a labor protest is constitutionally protected expression within the parameters of the First Amendment,” gassed the Sixth Circuit.
We wonder if courts would defend symbolic expression with the same zeal if we stood outside One Police Plaza with an inflated pig.
Or outside the Appellate Division with an inflated blowfish.
Courts are pretty savvy about symbolic expression. Here’s the Ohio Supreme Court: