Last week, Augusta police chief Robert Gregoire spent his day off holding a cardboard sign on the side of a busy street (article, “Augusta Police chief: Don’t give money to panhandlers,” April 25). The sign suggested that if drivers want to help people in need, they should give to charities and not to panhandlers.

Gregoire’s action serves as an important reminder: Standing next to the road holding a sign is not an inherently dangerous activity.

Mainers have long held signs in protest, to support candidates, to share views and to seek charitable support. The First Amendment protects their right to do so, as it protects the actions of Gregoire. If anyone gives him trouble about it, we hope that he will call the American Civil Liberties Union.

A federal court recently struck down Portland’s ban prohibiting people from standing in medians for any reason other than crossing the street, including holding signs. The city has appealed that decision, and other cities are waiting to see how the case turns out.

Sometimes holding a sign by the side of the street is the easiest way to communicate with a large number of people. And sometimes the best response to speech we don’t like is to speak out ourselves.

Zachary Heiden, legal directorACLU of Maine

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