July 16, 2007
Citing constitutional protections of expression, the ACLU of Colorado announced today that its attorneys will to go court to defend Mike Mahaney, an Englewood shop owner whose mural depicting an Alice in Wonderland scene has prompted controversy and citations for allegedly violating the City’s sign code.
“These murals are artistic expression that is protected by the First Amendment and the Colorado Constitution,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “After reviewing the Englewood sign ordinance, we do not believe that it can constitutionally be applied to punish our client in this case. ACLU volunteer attorneys entered their appearance in Englewood Municipal Court this morning, and they will be filing a motion to dismiss the charges on constitutional grounds.”
Mahaney sells pipes and smoking accessories in his shop, Headed West. He painted murals on two side of his store in an effort to deter graffiti vandalism. A mural featuring images of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and other musicians went up first. The Alice in Wonderland scene, depicting a hookah-smoking caterpillar and a white rabbit with a pill on its tongue, went up later. The City soon received complaints that the mural sent an “inappropriate” message regarding drug use. Although Mahaney painted over the pill, City officials were not satisfied. Mahaney was cited for three violations of the sign code, including failing to request a permit.
The controversy over Mahaney’s murals was a subject of discussion at the Englewood City Council in May, where several dozen persons attended in support of the murals. Mahaney brought a petition with 600 signatures urging the City to let the murals stay. The number of signatures has now grown to 1000, Mahaney said.
ACLU volunteer cooperating attorneys Tom Macdonald and James Johnson will represent Mahaney in Englewood Municipal Court.