Two companies that run walking tours of Salem are suing the state over Covid-19 orders that effectively limit the size of their gatherings to just a dozen people, saying that's an impermissible violation of their free-speech rights under the First Amendment.
Why, Salem Ghosts and Zaal Ventures say, they've had to turn people away when they reached that limit, in an age when the state does nothing to stop far larger Black Lives Matter demonstrations and church services and are asking a judge in US District Court in Boston to issue an injunction to let them resume walking tours with up to 50 people at a time.
Even in the face of the Pandemic, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cannot set unreasonably restrict and arbitrarily ignore the First Amendment rights of its citizens. ...
Walking tours inherently involve speech protected under the Free Speech Clauseof the First Amendmentas applied to the states and their political subdivision under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Other guided tours that use buses or some form of a motorized vehicle on public streets are permitted to operate at a 50% capacity. Therefore, a guided tour such as a Duck Tour which regularly hold 32 people at a time, is permitted to provide a guided tour to more than 10 to 12 people. ...
Although the governmental restrictions reduced Plaintiffs right to have 50 people participate in an outdoor guided walking tour on public streets and public sidewalks to only 10 to 12 people, an outdoor gathering on the same public streets and public sidewalks for political expression is not subject to any limitation while other outdoor gatherings on public streets and sidewalks allow more than 10 to 12 people at a time.
The Commonwealth's restrictions issued by Governor Baker and Secretary Keneally burden a substantial category of protected speech based on the content of the speech–walking tours.
The latest state Covid-19 statistics show Salem now has a test positivity rate of 4.1%, with an average count of new daily cases per 100,000 people of 41.6 - higher than Boston. Last month, the city ran an ad campaign urging people to stay away from Witch City for Halloween because of Covid-19.