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Courts and Crime


Ohio Supreme Court takes a closer look at free speech and Cleveland's Public Square
Arguments Tuesday over public safety, free speech, Occupy Cleveland and the role of Public Square
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


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M.L. Schultze
 
Occupy Cleveland was part of a national movement protesting corporate greed and politics.
Courtesy of LAURA FONG
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In The Region:

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments today/tomorrowon whether the city had the right to arrest members of Occupy Cleveland who were protesting on Public Square. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the free-speech vs. public safety debate.

LISTEN: Free speech vs. public safety in Cleveland

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Erin McCardle and Leatrice Tolls were arrested two years ago, while they were part of the peaceful political protest on Public Square. The city of Cleveland said they needed a permit to stay on the Square past 10 p.m. and they didn’t have one.

The lawyers for McCardle and Tolls – and an appeals court decision – maintain that Cleveland’s Public Square has long been – quote -- “its central hub of free expression” where “a citizen’s right to engage in free expression is at its highest.”

So a city law that shuts it down from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to all but people authorized by city permit is, they say, unconstitutional.

But the city says its curfew is “content neutral,” and narrowly tailored with decisions based on a significant government interest: namely, safety. The city says its after-hours permits are denied only if a gathering would be unlawful, dangerous or someone else already has reserved the spot.

The Occupy Cleveland lawyers maintain that the public safety argument is shaky: it applies equally to a gathering of one or of thousands, and does not apply to someone walking through the park, nor to even large crowds gathering there during the day – when traffic is busiest.

The city maintains that striking down Cleveland’s law could strike down every park curfew in the state.

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