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Chicago author banned from selling book outside arena

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    NMU         ILLINOIS         Newsgathering         Jan 31, 2002    

Chicago author banned from selling book outside arena

  • A federal magistrate ruled that author could not sell his book about the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team near United Center where the team plays.

A peddlers’ ordinance prevents a Chicago author from selling his book — one that is critical of the Chicago Blackhawks team owner Bill Wirtz — outside the arena where the hockey team plays.

Mark Weinberg, author of Career Misconduct: The Story of Bill Wirtz’s Greed, Corruption, and The Betrayal of the Blackhawks Fans, filed a civil suit last year after being arrested in February 2001 for selling his book in front of United Center.

Police told Weinberg that he could not sell his book due to an ordinance that prohibits the sale of all merchandise except newspapers on public walkways in certain areas of Chicago. One prohibited area lay within 1000 feet of United Center.

Weinberg says that the ordinance is a violation of his First Amendment rights, claiming that books are not “merchandise” under the Municipal Code and that restrictions on books conflict with the First Amendment’s public forum doctrine.

“The non-mainstream voices that aren’t powerful are eliminated from public walkways,” Weinberg said.

He said books should not be distinguished from newspapers and must be protected.

“There is a protest element to my book,” Weinberg said. “If I sell it in the bookstore, there is no voice in the arena from which this man operates.”

Federal Magistrate Arlander Keys, however, distinguished books from newspapers and upheld the ordinance on Jan.14. He said in his ruling that it is more time consuming to purchase books than newspapers, and the sale of books is more likely to cause congestion and hold up traffic.

“The City’s distinction between newspapers and other merchandise is justified and necessary to achieve its goals of reducing congestion and improving safety around the United Center,” Key’s ruling read.

Weinberg said selling his books in front of United Center did not cause congestion, and the ban on his sales is content-based.

“The powers that be didn’t approve of my book,” Weinberg said. “There is selective enforcement.”

But Weinberg said he had no proof that Wirtz demanded sales be stopped.

Weinberg also sells his book at bookstores and over the Internet. He sometimes sold 80 copies a night in front of United Center, but typically sold between 20 and 25 copies a night

“It’s my biggest market with all the disgruntled Blackhawks fans,” said Weinberg, who plans to appeal Keys’ ruling.

(Weinberg v. City of Chicago; Media Counsel, Neil S. Ament, Northbrook, Ill.) KG


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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