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Local free speech case serves as backdrop for First Amendment Day

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TWC News: Local free speech case serves as backdrop for First Amendment Day
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CHAPEL HILL -- Standing up for First Amendment rights remains a top priority for UNC-Chapel Hill students and many others across the state.

As UNC celebrates First Amendment Day, a woman in Hillsborough waits to hear how the the U.S. Court of Appeals will rule in her father's freedom of speech battle with the Town of Cary.

In hopes of fulfilling her father's wish to not let this issue die, Dawn Brown took over her father's case.

Back in 2009, David Bowden posted a political banner on his house after the town refused to pay him $250,000 after a road-widening project damaged his house.

The town claimed Bowden violated their sign ordinance and asked him to remove it.

A North Carolina judge ruled in favor of Bowden and his constitutional rights. But the town appealed the decision.

Both sides are waiting for the final verdict from the U.S. Court of Appeals.

"It didn't harm anybody; it didn't hurt anybody; it voiced his opinion and he has a right to his opinion. Everyone has a right to their opinion," said Brown.

At UNC-CH, protecting First Amendment rights remains a top priority for students and is something they address every year during First Amendment Day.

"Free flow and free exchange of ideas and that's what this country was founded upon and what makes it so great, in my opinion,” said UNC senior Brett Fox.

Through discussions of each of the rights, UNC explores the role the First Amendment has in their lives.

Students realize one day they could find themselves in a situation like Brown, hoping to stand up for a loved one and the right to exercise their rights.

If the Court of Appeals upholds the North Carolina court's decision, Cary will have to pay more than $55,000 in attorney and other fees as well as a nominal fee for Bowden's family.

Cary leaders told us so far the town has spent more than $282,000 to cover the costs of the legal battle.

For Brown it's not about the money.

“I promised him that I would fight until the fight was no more," said Brown.

This is the fourth annual First Amendment Day at UNC-CH.

It's expected to take several months before the appeals court rules in the Brown vs. the Town of Cary case.

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