ACLU Applauds Court Decision on Parade at Democratic National Convention Site

July 22, 2004 12:00 am

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Decries Ruling over Protest Pen


BOSTON-The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts welcomed a decision today by a U.S. District Court to permit a peaceful parade near the site of next week’s Democratic National Convention, but decried the court’s decision in a second case in which he declined to make changes to the so-called “free speech zone,” consisting of a metal pen to isolate and confine protesters outside the convention site.

“”We are pleased with the result of the decision requiring the city to permit peaceful marches near the convention site,”” said John Reinstein, Legal Director for the ACLU of Massachusetts. “”This is an important victory for free speech.””

In the case of Coalition to Protest the Democratic National Convention v. Answer Boston, USWA Local 8751, et al, at issue was the site of the largest parade scheduled during the convention. Groups applied for a permit to march from a rally on the Boston Commons to Fleet Center, the site of the Democratic National Convention.

“”As a result of this decision, the demonstrators are going to march to – not just near – the site of the DNC,”” said Neil McGaraghan, attorney at Bingham McCutchen and ACLU cooperating attorney on the case. “”They can walk in front of the wall that separates the convention from the people outside, as a means of protesting the existence of the wall itself. They will march past – but not into – the so-called protest zone.””

In a separate case, Black Tea Society, et al v. City of Boston, also filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts and the Boston chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Judge Douglas Woodlock declined to expand or alter the free speech zone, a metal pen designated for organized protests, citing special security concerns related to the convention.

“”We are disappointed by the outcome of the lawsuit involving the so-called protest zone,”” said Reinstein. “”The Judge’s statement in open court that this situation is “”irretrievably sad”” is an understatement. It is a deeply disappointing decision for freedom of speech and assembly.””

The case was filed on behalf of several protest groups who claimed that the cramped quarters, fencing, razor wire, and inadequate egress in the demonstration area not only fell short of what the city had promised as an assembly and free speech area, but also created what amounts to a cage.

“”The Democratic Convention is a significant political event – indeed, one of the most significant political events in the country,”” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “”We are left to ask why, when careful planning and accommodations were made for the news media, for police, for delegate parking, and for the influential supporters of the Democratic Party, no adequate provisions were made for the fundamental right of freedom of speech.””

“”While the ACLU and other groups attempted to find a suitable location, the imprisonment of organized protesters under the railroad tracks, fenced in and shrouded by netting, guarded by armed police and national guardsman, and surrounded by razor wire is not a suitable location for human life, much less freedom of speech and assembly,”” she added. “”We agree with the Court that this is an affront to the First Amendment.””

For the trial transcript of Coalition to Protest the Democratic National Convention v. City of Boston, et al and Black Tea Society, et al v. City of Boston see:

For more information on the ACLU of Massachusetts’ DNC activities see:

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