ACLU of Massachusetts Challenges Boston's Denial of Parade Permit During Democratic National Convention

July 19, 2004 12:00 am

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BOSTON - The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of peaceful protest groups against city officials over their refusal to allow a parade in front of the FleetCenter before and during the Democratic National Convention.

"There is tremendous symbolic importance in permitting peaceful protest to pass in front of the convention site," said Neil McGaraghan, an attorney at the law firm of Bingham McCutchen and the ACLU cooperating attorney on the case. "Any attempt by the City of Boston to deny demonstrators the right to march down Causeway Street is a clear violation of their constitutional right to free speech."

At issue is access to the south side of Causeway Street, which will be separated from the FleetCenter by a covered security fence running down the middle of the street.

The lawsuit demands that the groups be permitted to march peacefully down Causeway Street, in front of the Fleet Center, where the convention will be held. Members of the coalition were granted a permit to hold a rally at the Boston Common on Sunday, July 25, but the city turned down their request to march from the Common to the FleetCenter along Causeway Street, requiring the march to turn back several blocks away.

"A parade poses no security threat to the delegates or to the structure of the FleetCenter, particularly on Sunday, the day before the Convention begins," McGaraghan said. "There is no basis for denying a permit to allow people to march down the street that is directly in front of the convention site."

Members of the coalition seeking to march include: Boston City Councilors Chuck Turner and Felix Arroyo; ANSWER Boston; The New England Human Rights Organization for Haiti; The MLK Bolivarian Circle; The Greater Roxbury Workers Assoc.; USWA Local 8751, Boston School Bus Drivers; The International Action Center; Chelsea United Against the War; The Women's Fightback Network; Union of Minority Neighborhoods; and Stonewall Warriors.

Attorneys for the ACLU of Massachusetts have been in discussions for nearly a year with officials from the city permit department and Boston Police, and have successfully reached agreement on a range of issues related to the DNC. As late as last Wednesday, both sides met in an effort to resolve without litigation the issue of access to Causeway Street, but were unable to reach final agreement.

For more information about the ACLU's planned activities during the convention, go to http://www.aclu-mass.org

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