US to limit free speech outside political conventions

The City of Cleveland is issuing permits to groups that want to demonstrate at the convention, but protest areas will be hundreds of feet from the Quicken Loans Arena, or “the Q,” where the main events will take place. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/07/13/us/politics/cleveland-republican-convention-protest-preparations.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio brought a lawsuit against the city, saying that its convention security plan “severely limited” the opportunities for free expression. A federal judge agreed and threw out the plan, resulting in a new agreement that, among other things, expanded the parade route for protesters, which is the area where demonstrators are permitted to march.

Also, the number of available time slots for marches were increased and buffers between groups were added.

Christine Link, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Ohio, said that the Secret Service participated heavily in the negotiations and that her organization achieved almost all of its goals in ensuring that the government balanced security with the least restrictions. City sidewalks are still open for anybody to carry a poster, speak or march, she said, if they do not block intersections or enter secured areas.

Much of Cleveland’s Downtown Will Be a Restricted Zone. But Guns Are O.K.

*The secure zone around the welcoming event area and surrounding road closures will only apply on Sunday, July 17, the day before the convention begins. | The New York Times

The official event zone — where a long list of everyday items, like glass bottles, will be banned — will blanket 1.7 square miles in downtown Cleveland. However, guns will be allowed inside the event zone because Ohio is an open-carry state, and state law overrules any regulations put into place by the city. Firearms will not be allowed in the smaller secure zones managed by the Secret Service, including the convention arena.

Prohibited items in the larger zone include large bags and backpacks, mace, loudspeakers, tents, coolers and canned goods. Residents, including homeless people, will be given some leeway.

Because of the influx of people and the potential for large protests, Cleveland is bringing in roughly 2,500 law enforcement officers from other cities to bolster its own convention-dedicated force of about 500 officers. It is deploying a video unit to document crowd management and police activity.

The Democratic convention will be held at the Wells Fargo Center, an indoor arena in South Philadelphia, far removed from the city’s central district. The primary area set aside for permitted protesters will be F.D.R. Park, across the street from the arena.

The Secret Service has designated a secure zone, which will include the arena, its surrounding parking lot and the adjoining section of Broad Street. It will be fenced off and limited to people with credentials or tickets; banned items include backpacks, balloons, selfie sticks and any weapons.

The city is issuing permits for demonstrations across Philadelphia, not just in F.D.R. Park. The A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania has pressed the city for clarity on restrictions and has succeeded at getting the city to back off a ban of marches on Broad Street, a main thoroughfare, even during rush hour.

“So far we have not seen any kind of ‘no-go’ zones in Center City, and that’s great,” said Mary Katherine Roper, the deputy legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania. “People should be able to protest all over downtown.”

Last month, Mayor Jim Kenney signed a bill decriminalizing nuisance offenses in the city, including disorderly conduct, failure to disperse and public drunkenness. The policy was part of a larger effort to decrease the incarceration rate in the city, but the mayor has also said that no one will be arrested solely for protesting without a permit during the convention.

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