Air show organizers appeal ruling siding with protesters

Friday, May 25, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Organizers for a Memorial Day weekend air show at the Columbia Regional Airport said Thursday they plan to appeal a court ruling permitting protesters to attend the event.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union and two protesters who were escorted out after handing out anti-war leaflets during the 2004 air show.

Dale Doerhoff, an attorney for the event's organizers, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the group to ban signs and restrict protesters.

"I think we're entitled to say Memorial Day is a time to honor veterans, and that's what we're going to do," Doerhoff said.

He said the appeal would likely focus on the court's ruling that the protesters could be restricted during a noon ceremony for the playing of the national anthem and reading of all dead Boone County veterans.

Bill Wickersham and Maureen Doyle sued the city and the air show's organizers in 2005. They argued they should have been allowed onto the airport's tarmac.

A private, nonprofit group, Salute to Veterans Corp., runs the air show. But a federal judge earlier ruled that even so, by holding the event on city property, the group was essentially acting as part of city government and had to allow for other viewpoints. That ruling did not require organizers to allow protesters to gather signatures.

A three-judge appeals panel generally agreed with the judge.

The city did not appeal the ruling, but argues it shouldn't have to pay almost $260,000 in legal fees. Federal judges have not ruled on that.

A lawyer who represented the protesters said she doesn't expect the Supreme Court to consider the case.

"I don't think this is the kind of case they would accept," Marilyn Teitelbaum said.

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