Woman refuses to pay invoice for protest in Ashwaubenon
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – A De Pere woman who organized a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in Ashwaubenon last month is refusing to pay an invoice for nearly $800 from the village.
Hannah Lundin’s attorney, David Hassel, has called the village’s action a “clear violation of the First Amendment and a deliberate effort to prevent any future BLM protests in the village.”
“The charges require a blatant misapplication of village ordinances – without known precedent – that demonstrate the village’s bias against these protests,” Hassel said in an Aug. 10 letter to Village President Mary Kardoskee and Department of Public Safety Commander Nick Kozloski. “The actual expenses are arbitrary, bearing no relation to reimbursing the village for any actual expenses.”
The BLM protest was held in response to George Floyd’s death May 25 when he was in police custody in Minneapolis.
The invoice Hannah Lundin received for $763.42 related to the July 14 protest march included $590.94 in charges for police and $172.48 in special event charges for closing off streets.
A letter from Kozloski to Lundin dated July 15 stated the invoice was for time spent by officers directing traffic around the protest.
“The time shown is two hours for each officer, as the march entered the roadway in front of the Community Center at approximately 5:30 p.m. and concluded with the last of the marchers exiting the roadway at the Community Center at approximately 7:30 p.m.,” he said.
Kozloski said the event didn’t have authorization to utilize and block roadways and intersections, which was in violation of village code, because a special event permit is needed for events that take place in any village street.
“In the interest of fairness and equality, this invoice is being sent out,” he said. “Other entities who utilize police services to redirect traffic such as the Cellcom Marathon or Bellin Half-Marathon are also billed, and your event should be no different.”
Possible court challenge
Hassel has alluded to the possibility of a court challenge to the invoice, which had a due date of Aug. 16, if it’s not cancelled by the village.
He has disputed the village’s characterization of the protest as a “special event” requiring at least a 45-day advance notice, which he said cannot apply to political demonstrations, based on prior court rulings.
“Even if the July 14 protest were covered by the village’s definition, the 45-day notice requirement would prove fatal,” Hassel said. “Calling the protest a special event after the fact does not fix this defect.”
The village’s special event application form states the application must be completed and submitted 45 days prior to the event, or a penalty fee of an additional $100 will be applied for being submitted less than 45 days, and no application may be considered if submitted less than 15 days prior to the event being scheduled.
The form lists a $25 special event fee for non-profit groups and a $50 fee for others.
In addition, village code states the organizer of a special event “shall reimburse the village for services provided by village personnel as determined by the director of public safety or designee.”
Kardoskee said the village is now waiting for payment on the invoice it issued.
Village Attorney Tony Wachewicz responded to Hassel in a letter dated Aug. 13 by saying the village will not rescind the invoice, which is expected to be paid.
Wachewicz said Lundin “received what could certainly be construed as more favorable treatment than other event organizers or permit holders since she did not pay for nor did she obtain a special event permit.”
“The gathering of no less than 30 people that marched down blocks of Oneida Street obstructing virtually all traffic on one of the busiest roads in the village at the end of the business day would obviously be viewed by most anyone as a parade, run/walk event, march/ceremony or other similar display,” he said. “To assert otherwise is absurd.”
Wachewicz also cited guidelines from the American Civil Liberties Union related to demonstrations and protests for which permits would be required, such as a march or parade that does not stay on the sidewalk and other events that require blocking traffic or street closure.
“The village’s invoice was for the cost of the services provided, which were in addition to and drawn away from other routine and customary governmental services provided to the residents and citizens in the community at the time of this special event,” he said. “It is notable that village officers were pulled from patrol duties to cover traffic control because of this special event, which then required the village to request mutual aid from the Hobart-Lawrence Police Department to back up the village’s remaining officer on a disturbance call.”
Wachewicz said Lundin was not invoiced for the cost of a special event permit, nor was she issued a citation for a special event ordinance violation, which could result in a fine and the cost of the invoice imposed as restitution.
Hassel confirmed Lundin was recently issued a municipal citation related to obstruction of traffic for another BLM protest held last month in the Village of Howard.
He said the citation has a municipal court date in Howard for late September.