KENT, Ohio - For doing what he believes is expressing his First Amendment right to free speech, Kevin Egler has a trial date in Portage County Municipal Court in Kent.
The South Lincoln Street resident was issued a $125 ticket July 25 by Kent police officer Jerry Schlosser for "advertising on public property," according to court records.
His advertisement? A sign reading "Impeach," urging the impeachment of President Bush placed in a small public garden at the intersection of Main and Willow streets and Haymaker Parkway.
Egler, 45, said he has placed more than 450 anti-Bush signs in the Kent area.
Kent city ordinance 503.02 states "No person shall stick, post or attach any advertisement, poster, sign, handbill or placard of any kind or description upon any telegraph, telephone, railway or electric light pole within the city, nor upon any public building, voting booth, flagging, curbstone, walk, step stone or sidewalk, or write, print or impress or in any manner attach any notice or advertisement of any kind upon any public building, voting booth, flagging, curbstone, step, stone or sidewalk" that is the property of the city.
However, Egler said he believes the message on the sign he posted is at issue, not the act itself. He said he can show dozens of other examples of advertising on public property in the city, including U.S. Army recruitment posters, "for sale" signs and other handbills tacked to public property that have not attracted the same attention.
If he can't place them in Kent, Egler said he will move his operations to the Akron area.
Egler, who is not affiliated with any local anti-war groups, hosted a small gathering Tuesday with Chicago activist and poet Mario Penalver, who has undertaken an 800-mile walk from Chicago to Washington D.C. to protest the Iraq War and inspire dialogues on peace.
Joining Penalver are Denver-based activists Brother Raymond Schwab and Brother Elliott Nesch of Beit Shalom Ministries, an evangelical Christian ministry dedicated to protesting the war, who left Denver March 1 on their own mission to Washington D.C.
All three men attended Egler's hearing Wednesday, picketing outside the Kent courthouse with signs saying "Honk for peace" and "Impeach Bush."
The three activists said they are disturbed by what they believe is a political motive behind the ticket.
"We need to be more vigilant in times of war to protect our liberties," Schwab said.
"We can't let fear compromise our Constitution," Penalver said.
Judge John Plough set a pretrial for Aug. 9 and a trial for Aug. 16.
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