Caltrans changes course: banners coming down

The Associated Press
Tuesday September 24, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — The state Department of Transportation has reversed course on how it will comply with a judge’s order to treat U.S. flags and banners the same, saying Monday it now will remove them all from highway overpasses because of concerns about safety. 

Last week, Caltrans said it would comply with a January court order by leaving up all flags and banners that did not pose a safety hazard. 

Judge Ronald Whyte of U.S. District Court in San Jose issued the order in response to a lawsuit brought by Amy Courtney and Cassandra Brown last year. They argued their anti-war banners were taken down because of their content, while U.S. flags were left up. 

Whyte ordered the agency to enforce its rules on a content- and viewpoint-neutral basis, saying the agency could not grant exemptions for U.S. flags. Caltrans’ policy has been to take down all banners and signs except for American flags. 

The decision means the agency is reverting to its decision made shortly after the judge’s order.