Couple challenges political sign rule

ATLANTA (AP) — About 16 minutes after Deborah and Ronald Moon parked their pickup truck in downtown Jackson, their vehicle was impounded by city police.
The reason?

The Georgia couple claims it was because the truck featured a GOP political sign.

The Moons filed a federal lawsuit recently, claiming Jackson officials violated their free speech rights in the midst of election season when they towed the vehicle in October 2010 because it had a sign in the truck bed supporting Rep. Austin Scott, a Tifton Republican.

The two said Jackson Mayor Charlie Brown called police minutes after they parked the vehicle and demanded it be towed “because it had political signs,” according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Macon.

It claims other vehicles in the area that were without political signs went untouched.

“We were shocked. The fact that a local elected official would so blatantly abuse the power of his office to impact an election is alarming and should concern everyone,” Ronald Moon said in a statement.

Brown did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The lawsuit, filed by Gerry Weber, contends Brown and Jackson officials “censored the Moons’ campaign sign explicitly because of its political content and its viewpoint supporting a Republican candidate.”

It asked a judge to reprimand the city for violating First Amendment rights, and also seeks punitive and compensatory damages as well as attorney fees.

“The censorship of the Moons’ political message, in the midst of a campaign for Congress, restricted his right to free speech designed to express a position on a time-sensitive issue,” it said.