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Phoenix Is Policing Super Bowl Speech, but Not Violent Crime

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It’s a tale of two cities in downtown Phoenix, set to play host to the national media and all the associated fanfare in the lead-up to Super Bowl LVII.

Or rather, it’s a tale of where one city government’s priorities lie, brought to light by two lawsuits challenging the city’s willingness to trample on its residents’ rights. Government officials can’t be bothered to police violent crime in one of the nation’s largest homeless encampments. But they have more than enough time and resources to police their own citizens’ free speech ahead of the Super Bowl.

In a massive swath of downtown Phoenix known as “The Zone,” where more than 1,000 homeless people have set up camp, the crisis is spiraling out of control as lawlessness, violence, and death become regular occurrences. And that’s to say nothing of the used condoms, needles, and human waste littering the streets. Just how bad is it? Last November, the burned remains of a 20-to-24-week old fetus were found in the street. Less than three weeks later, first responders put out another fire—only to discover adult remains.

And while city leaders are unwilling to protect the public’s health and safety, those same leaders were champing at the bit to cater to the whims of the National Football League—even if it meant censoring their own citizens in the weeks surrounding the Super Bowl.

The city said no resident or business in the “clean zone,” which encompasses most of downtown Phoenix, could put up any temporary signs—including flags, banners, posters, flyers or even window paintings—without the approval of the city, the NFL, and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. The mandate was ostensibly meant to ensure that only the NFL and its chosen sponsors can advertise in the “clean zone.” In practice, it meant that hundreds of businesses and thousands of residents were banned from communicating with the public on their own property without permission from the government and its handpicked private entities.

After the Goldwater Institute sued the city over these unconstitutional restrictions, the government amended the “clean zone” ordinance to remove the NFL and the Host Committee from the signage decision-making process. (And this past week, a court ruled the restrictions were unconstitutional.) But it’s all too clear what is and is not important to city leaders.





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