United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Nathan W. Kellum, Esq., Center for Religious Expression, Memphis, TN, on behalf of Plaintiff.
Portia Hampton-Flowers, Esq., St. Paul City Attorney's Office, St. Paul, MN, on behalf of Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.
On June 4, 2015, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on Plaintiff David Miller's ("Miller") Motion for Preliminary Injunction [Docket No. 6]. Defendants City of St. Paul, Thomas Smith, and Patricia Englund (collectively, "Defendants") oppose the motion. For the reasons set forth below, Miller's motion is denied.
A. The Parties
Harriet Island Regional Park ("Harriet Island") is a public park located in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶ 24. The Irish Fair of Minnesota, Inc. ("IFM") is a private charitable non-profit organization. Id . ¶ 34. IFM organizes the Irish Fair, an annual three-day event dedicated to celebrating and promoting Irish culture. Id . ¶¶ 33, 34, 36. Harriet Island has served as the venue for the Irish Fair since 2001. Id . ¶ 33. IFM annually applies for and secures a special event block party permit from the City of St. Paul to hold the Irish Fair at Harriet Island. Id . ¶ 35, Hampton-Flowers Aff. [Docket No. 16] Ex. K. The fair is open to the public and free of charge; no ticket is required to enter the event. Compl. ¶ 40. Harriet Island remains a public park during the Irish Fair, with no gates or barriers limiting access to the park. Id . ¶¶ 40-41.
Miller is a resident of Willmar, Minnesota. Id . ¶ 9. He is a practicing evangelical Christian who shares his religious beliefs regarding Jesus Christ with others in public places. Id . ¶ 13; Miller Aff. [Docket No. 8-1] Ex. A ¶¶ 4, 6, 8. Miller expresses his religious convictions through displaying signs and banners, passing out literature, and open-air preaching. Compl. ¶ 14; Miller Aff. ¶ 8. Miller seeks to share his religious beliefs at Harriet Island during the Irish Fair. Compl. ¶ 23; Miller Aff. ¶ 11.
The City of St. Paul ("The City") is a municipal government authority in the State of Minnesota. Compl. ¶ 10. The City controls and is responsible for regulating public parks in the city. Id . ¶ 10. Defendant Thomas Smith ("Chief Smith") is Chief of Police for the City of St. Paul Police Department. Id . ¶ 11. In his official capacity, Smith is responsible for overseeing numerous policies including law enforcement in public parks. Id . Defendant Patricia Englund ("Commander Englund") is a Patrol Commander with the City of St. Paul Police Department. Id . ¶ 12. In her official capacity, Commander Englund's duties include enforcement of laws and policies regulating activities in public parks. Id.
B. Events at the 2014 Irish Fair
On August 9, 2014, Miller went to Harriet Island to share his religious views at the 2014 Irish Fair. Id . ¶ 43. Commander Englund, an unidentified St. Paul Police Officer (the "unidentified Officer"), Miller, and a few of Miller's friends engaged in a dialogue near an entrance to the fair. Id . ¶¶ 46, 50-85. Jason Cooley, one of Miller's friends, recorded this conversation on videotape. Mot. Prelim. Inj. Ex. D [Docket No. 8-4] ("Cooley Aff.") ¶¶ 7, 10, Ex. E [Docket No. 8-5].
At approximately 11:00 a.m., Miller and his group gathered near an entrance to the Irish Fair at the corner of Plato Boulevard and Water Street. Compl. ¶¶ 43, 46. The unidentified Officer approached the group and asked what the members were protesting. Hampton-Flowers Aff. Ex. C ("Video Tr.") at 3. Miller responded, "Oh, we're not protesting, we're preaching." Id . Commander Englund soon joined the unidentified Officer and advised the group that the Irish Fair had a permit, granting it control of Harriet Island as well as 2, 000 feet beyond the Island "for [its] sole purpose." Id. at 4. Commander Englund further explained that the permit allowed the IFM to "make the rules for the property. They make the rules. This is the [IFM's] property up until Monday morning when they unload." Id. at 5. A member of the group questioned the constitutionality of Commander Englund's statements, noting that they would not hold up in court. Id. at 5. Commander Englund advised the group that soliciting and protesting would not be allowed at the Irish Fair and that "the signage, all that stuff" was not welcome. Id. at 6. The group responded that they were neither soliciting nor protesting. Id . Miller then posed a series of hypothetical questions to Commander Englund:
Miller: Are you saying that if I was to set up a banner over by the bandstand I would be arrested?
Commander Englund: I would say I would take it down.
Miller: So if I don't take it down, would I ...