First Amendment debate started in Rye over blue ribbons in support of Israel
What started as a fundraiser for Israel has now sparked a First Amendment debate in Rye.
In the beginning of October, Kelly Goldstein began a fundraiser for Israeli soldiers and their families. She began to recognize people's $18-plus contributions by giving them blue ribbons to hang up at their discretion. To date, she has raised over $6,000 and was planning to continue to fundraise until the last day of Hannukah.
Goldstein also gave ribbons to local businesses, requesting they be hung in windows to show further support for her cause. Eventually, she decided to hang a few around town. She picked public property like trees and street signs to hang them on.
"I thought, 'Why not?' And then it was brought to my attention that it was illegal," Goldstein said.
Under Rye's billposting ordinances, "the posting of any advertisement, notice or bill within the limits of any public street or highway or upon any public property within the City without the consent of the Council is hereby prohibited."
Upon hearing about the permission requirement, Goldstein said she reached out to Rye Mayor Josh Cohn. She told News 12 that she apologized for the mistake and has not hung up any ribbons since. However, the ribbons that are up have sparked a larger conversation.
"It's easy to allow popular notices, but then under the First Amendment, you also have to allow the unpopular messages," Cohn explained.
He said they have yet to decide whether or not the blue ribbons have to be taken down. He also said no one from the city has told her to stop or given her any orders on the subject yet.
"We are continuing to review our sign law and get advice on our sign law," he added.
In turn, Goldstein is upset that she hasn't been given a chance to defend the idea of keeping the ribbons up at any of the two recent City Council meetings. Goldstein said, if she had been given that opportunity, she wouldn't be as upset. She is also confused as to why other signs have been allowed to remain up in the city.
News 12 verified that there was a sign for a lost dog up on town property.
"Just leave them up, they're not hurting anyone. They're lovely blue ribbons throughout the town," Goldstein said.
Goldstein has some local supporters as well. Claudia Baker owns one of the local businesses that displays a ribbon in the window.
"This is such a fantastic, small community, everyone supports everybody," Baker said. "Right now, we need to support Israel, so the blue ribbons should stay."
Out of the handful of people News 12 spoke with on the streets of Downtown Rye on Saturday, no one wanted to have them taken down.
Cohn told News 12 that the blue ribbons will stay up until a decision is reached.
However, some of the blue ribbons that Goldstein previously put up around the city have been taken down. She doesn't know who could have done that. It's also unclear if the person or persons who did knew what they stand for.
Cohn said it's not the city.
"No city employee and no city official has touched any of the blue ribbons," he said.
There was no word as of Saturday night on when a decision will be made.
Cohn said they have asked their First Amendment lawyer to get back to them as soon as possible. The next City Council meeting will not be held until Dec. 20.