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ACLU: Lawsuit over mayor’s Facebook blocks settled

September 1, 2021 GMT

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by two Woonsocket residents who said the city’s mayor violated their First Amendment rights when she deleted their critical posts from her Facebook page and then blocked them has been settled, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.

Under a stipulation filed in court, Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt agreed to no longer block people from her page “based on First Amendment-protected viewpoints expressed,” the civil rights organization said.

The city also agreed to pay $7,000 in fees and court costs.

City attorney John DeSimone said early last month when the federal suit was filed that Baldelli-Hunt had already unblocked the constituents, Greg Duhamel and Thomas Dubois. A message was left with DeSimone on Wednesday.

The ACLU said blocking people is unconstitutional because the mayor used the Facebook page “to announce, describe, and defend her official policies and her office’s operations; to comment on local issues; to share content produced for the City of Woonsocket; and to communicate with her constituents including responding to their comments.”

“Government leadership can only be effective when it listens to, and values, both supporting and dissenting opinions,” Dubois said in a statement.