New York Congressional Members, City Leaders and Advocates Join NYCLU in Calling for Protection of First Amendment Rights at the Republican National Convention

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
June 6, 2004 12:00 am

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NEW YORK-Members of Congress, city leaders and advocates for free speech today announced a series of actions to be taken this summer to ensure that First Amendment rights are protected at the forthcoming Republican National Convention. The “”Protecting Protest Campaign”” will include a Memorandum of Understanding between New York City’s Congressional leaders and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It will also include a City Council resolution sponsored by Speaker Gifford Miller along with hearings in the City Council on NYPD tactics at the convention.

“”New York City has a long tradition of championing First Amendment rights,”” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “”Today, we’re announcing an action plan that will ensure that demonstrators at the Republican National Convention are treated with the same respect and hospitality as conventioneers.””

Congressman Major Owens of Brooklyn announced the Memorandum of Understanding, which he co-signed along with members of the New York City Congressional delegation, including Representatives Elliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Edolphus Towns. The memorandum is intended to facilitate a dialogue between city officials and individuals and groups regarding the regulation of expressive activities at the convention, which takes place this August. It will be presented to Mayor Bloomberg for his review and signature.

“”I am concerned that my constituents will be prevented from expressing their First Amendment rights at the convention while demonstrating either in support or opposition to the Administration’s policies,”” said Rep. Owens (D-11CD) who led the Protecting Protest effort. “”We expect demonstrators to follow the law and to act peacefully at the convention. In the same manner, we expect the city to enforce First Amendment rights guaranteeing freedom of speech and association.””

Speaker Miller announced a resolution to be introduced in the New York City Council tomorrow that will call on government officials to protect and uphold First Amendment rights. The resolution calls for prompt action on permit applications, peaceful protests without unreasonable constraints and minimal use of barricades to confine the movement of people at public demonstrations.

“”The City Council is committed to working with the administration to ensure that demonstrators in New York City are allowed to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, association and expression,”” said Speaker Miller.

Deputy Majority Leader William Perkins added that the Government Operations Committee will be holding hearings on police practices for protesters. “”The police did not respect the rights of protesters during the February 15, 2003 anti-war demonstration,”” he said. “”These hearings will ensure that the rights of protesters are protected during the Republican National Convention.””

Other actions called for by the Memorandum of Understanding and the proposed Council Resolution include:

  • Allow demonstrators within sight and sound and in close proximity to the object of their protests.
  • Refrain from engaging in investigation of individuals based solely on their participation in activities protected by the First Amendment.
  • Train police officers on the First Amendment rights of protesters.

The New York City Bill of Rights Campaign, a nonpartisan, grassroots project of the NYCLU is spearheading the resolution effort, along with a coalition of 95 organizations.

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