WASHINGTON (AFP) – They're said to utter little more than an occasional groan, but zombies -- the blood-drenched monsters of Hollywood "B" movies -- still have a right to free speech, a US court ruled this week.
An appeals court in the northern US city of Minneapolis, Minnesota on Wednesday allowed a group of zombies -- or rather, several protesters costumed as such -- to press ahead with their lawsuit against police who arrested them for disorderly conduct.
The appeals court overturned a lower court in finding that the group of seven "zombies" had been wrongfully detained during a 2006 shopping mall protest against consumerism.
The three-judge panel, by a two-to-one vote, ruled that Minneapolis police lacked probable cause to arrest the demonstrators for disorderly conduct.
At the time of the protest, the plaintiffs were wearing makeup that gave them a "living dead" look: white face powder, fake blood and black circles around their eyes.
They lurched stiff-legged through the halls of the mall urging shoppers to "get your brains here" and "brain cleanup in aisle five."
In various bags, the protesters carried audio equipment including loudspeakers and wireless phone handsets, which police had described as "simulated weapons of mass destruction."
The judicial panel upheld the lower court in dismissing the plaintiffs' claims of "false imprisonment" and "First Amendment retaliation" by Minneapolis police after being put in jail for two nights.
But the appeals court sided with the protesters in ruling that police had no reason to imprison them simply for "dressing as zombies, and walking erratically in downtown Minneapolis," the court decision said.
"An objectively reasonable person would not think probable cause exists under the Minnesota disorderly conduct statue to arrest a group of peaceful people for engaging in an artistic protest by playing music, broadcasting statements (and) dressing as zombies," the appeals court ruled.
The decision allows the protesters to revive their lawsuit against Minneapolis and its police, which according to the Star Tribune newspaper seeks damages of at least 50,000 dollars per person arrested.
UPDATE: For more info on the zombies, including their mugshots, click here.