A chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers claims in a federal suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that a Montgomery County township violated its members' First Amendment right to peacefully assemble by citing picketers during a July protest.
According to the complaint, members of the union's local 542 had gathered at Commerce Drive in Upper Dublin Township on July 26, 2013, to protest that the building owner used a contractor that paid less than the prevailing wage to build a parking lot on the property.
The suit says that the union members were peacefully picketing when Upper Dublin police officers arrived and began to tell them how to protest and intimidated the picketers, allegedly violating their First Amendment rights.
According to the complaint, counsel for Local 542 informed the officers that they had the right to stand and publicize their complaints as they saw fit. The suit says that the picketers did not block the entrance or interfere with the business.
The officers responded by citing four protesters with blocking a public right of way. A December 2013 trial acquitted the picketers of all charges, but the union holds the township responsible for allowing police officers to infringe upon their constitutional rights, the suit says. By acting as agents of the state, the complaint says, the officers chilled the protesters from exercising their right to assemble and freedom of speech.
The plaintiffs are represented by Louis Agre in Fort Washington, Pa.
The federal case ID number is 2:14-cv-04980-JD.