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The Pre-RNC Lawsuits

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September 2, 2008

The ACLU of Minnesota has been working since November to secure the rights of protestors who want to march outside of Minneapolis’s Xcel Center during the Republican National Convention. The first lawsuit, Coalition to March v. City of St. Paul, charged that the city violated the Coalition’s free speech and due process rights by issuing a “Conditional Alternative Permit” in response to the Coalition’s demonstration application.

Unfortunately, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericson ruled against the ACLU’s plaintiffs.

In a second lawsuit, the ACLU of Minnesota represented Impeach for Peace, a non-partisan grassroots group. In that lawsuit, the ACLU again argued that the demonstration zone was inadequate and did not guarantee sight and sound access to Xcel Center. In addition, the City of St. Paul never divulged whether and to what extent the view will be obstructed by fencing, buses and tents; or if the area will be a three-sided pen that would severely limit incoming and outgoing foot traffic. The suit also challenged the guidelines regulating speech—like what rights protestors have to hold signs, demonstration, or distribute literature—which are subject to last-minute changes as the City deems fit. A federal judge ruled against the ACLU’s plaintiffs in that case as well.

Lawsuits aside now, like the ACLU of Colorado, the ACLU of Minnesota is closely monitoring the protests and how the police are treating arrestees. They’ve recruited civil and criminal defense attorneys to be at the jails and various venues where protestors are being booked. In addition, attorneys assembled by the ACLU of Minnesota will offer limited defense to those arrested during their upcoming arraignments.

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