Are giant rats free speech?

This is the question at the heart of an ongoing suit in against the town of Grand Chute, Wisconsin.

As a form of protest, unions will place giant, inflatable “union rats” in front of businesses they have disputes with. In Grand Chute, the town ordered that one of these rats be removed, citing safety and construction ordinances.

The Associated Press reported that while a lower court sided with Grand Chute, an appeals court judge wrote that removing the giant rat violated the union’s right to free speech, calling the inflatable rodent “akin to a political poster.”

Many previous court cases have outlined what constitutes protected speech. The First Amendment has been interpreted to protect not just speech and writing, but also wearing armbands in protest, using offensive words, contributing to political causes, advertising, and even symbolic speech like burning flags.

Protected speech can still be restricted by the government, however. For example, while you have the right to picket on public sidewalks, you don’t have the right to block building entrances stop people from walking on the sidewalk.

What do you think? Are giant inflatable rats free speech, or public hazards?