The Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city of New Orleans after the city ordered a resident to take down a mural featuring an infamously lewd quote from President Donald Trump.
The mural, painted on Neal Morris’ private property, was inspired by a 2005 hot mic recording of Trump speaking with host Billy Bush in between scenes of NBC’s “Access Hollywood.”
Some of the explicit words in the mural were replaced with images of a dog, breasts, a star and a pink “pussy hat” that now symbolizes the Women’s March protests against the Trump administration.
The mural was a partial quote of “Access Hollywood’s” 2005 recording of Trump:
I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look. ...
You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. ...
Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
Neal Morris, the property owner who commissioned the mural, allowed street artist Cashy D to paint the mural on one of his properties on Nov. 4, according to the New Orleans Advocate.
The city sent him a letter days later threatening him with a fine or jail time if he did not remove the mural, which they claimed violated city permit rules.
According to the New Orleans city website, property owners must obtain a permit to paint a “public mural” in the city. All mural requests must be sent to the City Council’s mural review board, along with a sketch of the mural and two separate application documents. There is also a $500 fee.
The ACLU of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit against the city Tuesday, claiming its permit requirements violate residents’ constitutional right to freedom of speech. The ACLU also argues that the city requires murals to be “subject to advance review and approval,” yet the city does not provide any guidance or standards for the residents to follow.
“This mural is a constitutionally-protected form of free expression ― a right guaranteed to every American by the First Amendment,” Jane Johnson, ACLU of Louisiana’s interim executive director, said in a statement. “Forcing artists and their patrons to get permission from the government, pay exorbitant fees, and navigate an obscure bureaucratic process before they can express themselves on their own property is a totally unnecessary trampling of their First Amendment rights.”
Morris has left the mural painted on his property, though it is currently covered with a tarp printed with the word “censored.”
Morris told the Times Picayune that he supported political “resistance” but said he was also concerned about artists’ rights to freedom of expression.
“This is about an artist’s ability to paint on private property,” Morris told the newspaper. “It’s not about taggers doing something without permission, or what the city decides to allow on its own property.”
The ACLU is asking the court to block the city from enforcing its mural permitting system and to declare the system unconstitutional because it violates freedom of speech rights.
A spokesman for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the Advocate that the city is still reviewing the lawsuit and “will determine the appropriate path forward” after the review.