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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

Web Editor
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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