Washington Park rules lead to lawsuit

Sep 4, 2012

Three Cincinnati residents who live near Washington Park are filing a federal civil rights suit against the city's park board and parks director over rules for the park.  The suit by Jerry Davis, Andrew Fitzpatrick, and Agnes Brown says the rules were created in an unconstitutional fashion that discriminates against certain classes of people. 

Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition executive director Josh Spring says the Washington Park rules are different from the ones in other city parks:

"Some of the examples are:  a rule that food or clothing could not be handed out or shared in the park, a rule that somebody could not, in their words, rummage through the trash or recycling containers; and a rule that any and all amplified sound would not be allowed."

Spring says the rules were created by park board employees, a Cincinnati police captain and representatives of 3CDC in e-mail conversations and were not debated, discussed or enacted at a public meeting of the park board.  He says the e-mails obtained by a public records request show the rules were aimed at the homeless and people with low incomes. 

City solicitor John Curp says the lawsuit is a surprise:

"I think anyone who's been to Washington park, and I've taken my family, has seen there's a great interaction between people from all social classes in the park; and I think both 3CDC and the park board have worked very well together to preserve that atmosphere in Washington Park."

Curp says signs listing the rules have been removed and the city has been working to address resident's concerns for several months.