East Cleveland’s Government Weaponized its Police to Punish a Political Opponent. He’s Fighting to Hold It Accountable.

Our free and democratic society isn’t possible if citizens cannot voice their opinions about politics and elected officials. That’s why the First Amendment safeguards people’s rights to participate in the political process, to criticize government officials and to advocate for political change. That’s just what William Fambrough was doing in his home city of East Cleveland in 2021 when he used his step van—outfitted as a sound truck with a candidate poster—to campaign for a challenger to the incumbent mayor.

But rather than respecting his basic rights, the city government, angered at its political competition, used its police and law departments to retaliate against William in the months leading up to the election. Police officers repeatedly showed up at William’s home and claimed that parking the van there violated an old city ordinance—an ordinance that is never enforced against anyone else. They ultimately fined him and towed his van, doing thousands of dollars of damage in the process. And they cited William for “noise pollution,” despite his obtaining a permit to broadcast campaign messages from his van throughout East Cleveland.

William is fighting back with a lawsuit against East Cleveland to vindicate his First Amendment rights and to hold city officials accountable. Represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), his lawsuit is part of IJ’s long tradition of protecting free speech. 

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