The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California announced Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration on behalf of a veteran and perpetual demonstrator who it says had his free speech rights violated when he was cited after displaying an American flag upside down at its West Los Angeles grounds.
The ACLU states that Robert Rosebrock, 67, has been demonstrating on the property since 2008, mostly without trouble, but that once he started displaying a flag upside down to bring attention to the idea that the V.A. could better use its vast West L.A. facilities to house and serve homeless vets in the area, he received six citations for "unauthorized demonstration or service in a national cemetery or on other V.A. property."
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The ACLU argues that the V.A. cannot enforce its rules depending on whether or not it is offended or disagrees with the content of someone's free speech.
"The V.A. has shown a basic misunderstanding of the meaning of the First Amendment of the Constitution, the very document that Mr. Rosebrock and other veterans have served in the military to protect," states ACLU First Amendment rights attorney Peter Eliasberg. "The government cannot say it's OK to hang the flag one way but not another just because the latter expresses a message that the government does not approve of."
Rosebrock has a problem with the V.A. allowing outsiders to use facilities -- including tennis courts -- that not even veterans can access. He also decries a public park that's planned for the grounds that were set aside for disabled veterans.
The ACLU wants a federal judge to grant a permanent injunction that would prohibit the V.A. from interfering with Rosebrock and others like him when they demonstrate on what it argues is public land. It also wants the V.A. to pay his legal fees for the case.