The protesters want the court to recognize their right to protest the ceremonies “within sight and sound of the participants.”
Clark Kauffman/The Register

State accused of First Amendment violations

A group of activists is suing Iowa and asking a federal judge to let them protest the upcoming World Food Prize ceremonies at the state Capitol.

Frank Cordaro, a peace activist and founder of the Catholic Worker in Des Moines; William Talen, an actor-turned-pastor from New York; and Sharon Donovan, a World Food Prize protester from Iowa; are suing the privately run World Food Prize Foundation and the state of Iowa in U.S. District Court.

They are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for past attempts by the state to limit their protests and are asking the court to declare they “are entitled under the Constitution of the United States to engage in expressive speech activity … within sight and sound of the participants and observers of the 2017 award ceremony.”

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The lawsuit also seeks class-action status that would potentially broaden the number of plaintiffs.

A spokeswoman for the World Food Prize declined to comment, saying the organization was unaware of the lawsuit. A spokesman for the Iowa attorney general also declined to comment.

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The three plaintiffs have been involved in past protests at the annual World Food Prize ceremonies, usually to express their concerns with the environment, biotechnology and the use of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in the fight to end world hunger.