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Government & Politics

Judge Strikes Down Cleveland's Republican Convention Security Rules

RNC 2008 protests


A federal judge has ruled that Cleveland’s security rules for the Republican National Convention unconstitutionally limit free speech and assembly.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin made the ruling today.

The city’s plan would have set up a 3-square-mile security zone that includes most of downtown. It set hours and locations for protesters, keeping them well away from Quicken Loans arena where the Republican delegates and convention will be.

“I do find that the city hasn't sufficiently, narrowly drawn the regulations to serve government interests,” Gwin said after a two-hearing on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The “event zone” would have had banned all public address systems except hand-held bullhorns, and authorized just one speaking platform in Public Square and one demonstration route. It also limited things that can be carried downtown, including metal-tipped umbrellas and sleeping bags. But guns – permitted under Ohio’s open- and concealed-carry laws – would have been OK.

The ACLU – representing Organize Ohio, Citizens for Trump and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless – also said the city was taking too long to approve permits for protest groups or unreasonably denied them.

Mike Brickner, the ACLU’s policy analyst, says the delays are no small thing for groups hoping to draw thousands of people to Cleveland.

“That’s a lot of coordination that you have to put together. You have to get buses, you have to get port-a-potties; you’ve gotta get speaker phones, ...  coordinating T-shirts. That’s hard to put together in just a month’s time. And so many of these organizations that want to espouse their First Amendment beliefs are unable to kind of move forward with their plans because the city has been holding back for so long.”

The city maintains protesters can demonstrate anywhere as long as they don’t set up platforms or block traffic. It can appeal the ruling, but lawyers for both sides were talking after Gwin’s ruling.

The ruling does not cover a much smaller security zone in the immediate vicinity of the Q that will be governed by the Secret Service.