A federal judge struck down restrictions on protesters for the Republican National Convention on Thursday. US District Judge James Gwin ruled on Thursday that the city of Cleveland must redraw its map for the “event zone” that regulates protesters. The “event zone” is different than the hard security zone overseen by the Secret Service. That zone has much higher regulations and it was not challenged.
The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and they were joined by Organize Ohio and Citizens for Trump, a progressive and a conservative group, respectively. In court, ACLU Ohio Legal Director Freda Levenson called the security zone, “A black hole for 1st Amendment activities.”
Stewart Hastings, a lawyer for the city, countered, “Cleveland will be the most open convention for public speech in recent history.”
“If they want to walk up to the fence, put a bullhorn to their mouths and shout at the delegates, they can do that.” Hastings also said that protesters would have free movement and no restrictions on sign and bullhorn usage as long as they did not block traffic.
Cleveland had banned sound devices larger than a bullhorn and prohibited speech platforms in the zone. The city was allowing speakers to apply for a permit to use a platform in Public Square. Judge Gwin also struck down the city’s limitations on parades.
“And I don’t mean to suggest the city can’t control the time and the parade routes, but I think the restriction to this Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, at times when delegates are almost invariably not going to be present, is an insufficient opportunity for First Amendment purposes,” he said.
The city had argued that the restrictions were needed to prevent domestic and international terrorists.
There is an increasingly decreasing amount of time for the city to rewrite its rules. Judge Gwin recommended that the ACLU and the city work together due to the small amount of time. Christine Link, the executive director of ACLU Ohio, told reporters, “We will make every effort to work with the city.”