New Orleans' 'clean zones' are constitutionally problematic, Loyola law professor says

By Carrie Bradon | May 13, 2019

The ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit on April 8 after an environmental activist was arrested, claiming the arrest was a violation of his First Amendment rights. 

According to, activist Luke Fontana was arrested at the 2018 French Quarter Festival following his set up of an information booth to educate those interested about his organization. The booth was set up in one of the city's "clean zones" that the ACLU believes are specially designated areas in which individuals' rights to free speech are unconstitutionally prohibited.

Additionally, Fontana was allegedly injured during the course of his arrest and was made to spend 10 hours in jail. 

"The French Quarter Festival 'clean zone' regulation is constitutionally problematic because it prevents speech in a large area of New Orleans at precisely the time in which that speech might be most effective – during a large and popular outdoor event," Joanna Kalb, a professor of constitutional law at Loyola University, told Louisiana Record.

Kalb said that the First Amendment right to free speech is one that must be protected, but that initiatives like New Orleans' clean zones expressly work against that right.

"The Supreme Court has long said that our public spaces must be made available for people to assemble and share ideas," she said. "This principle is at the very core of the First Amendment right to free speech."

Kalb also has concerns about the limitations that New Orleans places on free speech and believes that it should be concerning to others as well.

"The city has rightly agreed not to enforce the clean zone regulation against Mr. Fontana this year, but the fact that other New Orleanians still face the possibility of being jailed for exercising their First Amendment rights should be a cause of concern for everyone in our community," Kalb said.

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