Rat wins peculiar free speech case

This file photo by the Associated Press shows a large, inflated rat used at a N.J. union protest in 2001.

This file photo by the Associated Press shows a large, inflated rat used at a N.J. union protest in 2001.

And now, for a moment of levity after days of media coverage of tragedies …

A rat wins a free speech case case, and free speech advocates should cheer.

The rat, pictured above, is used by unions nationwide as a symbol of a labor dispute. But in New Jersey, the Associated Press reports, police in Lawrence Township fined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union local for using the rat.

New Jersey’s state Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects the rat as free speech and that the township’s law, which allowed some kinds of signage and not others, was not content neutral.

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