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‘Chalk On The sidewalk, Technically That’s Illegal’: Minnesota City Passes Ordinance Regulating Displays On City Property

16November 2021

ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — A Minnesota city is getting attention for a new ordinance that includes a ban on sidewalk hopscotch games.

Anoka passed the measure regulating what kind of displays are allowed on city property, and art is not one of them.

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Any displays on city-owned buildings, infrastructure and in parks must be “expressions of government speech.” That includes American and Minnesota flags, city signage, holiday and seasonal banners, and artwork approved by the city that portrays Anoka positively.

“What it’s intended to do is, number one, not abridge anybody’s free speech,” said Anoka’s city attorney, Scott Baumgartner. “What the [city] council tried to do is make sure Anoka stayed neutral.”

Baumgartner says the ordinance’s broadness prevents the city council from having to subjectively decide what displays may be appropriate.

Councilmember Erik Skogquist, the sole dissenting vote on the ordinance, points out, “If it’s just somebody drawing chalk on the sidewalk, technically that’s illegal.”

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Skogquist says he feels the law goes too far and clamps down on normal societal things, like art and roadside memorials.

“I don’t know what the purpose of this is and I’m concerned it’s going to get the city into more hot water once people start understanding this and testing it,” he said.

Baumgartner says cracking down on sidewalk hopscotch isn’t the intention of the rule.

“We were more envisioning protests with inappropriate or cuss language right in front of city hall,” he said. “We’re not going to start issuing citations on hopscotch.”

Skogquist says uneven enforcement is a concern. The city says it will use common sense in its enforcement and seek to use the ordinance to educate.

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