How Far Can Cities Go in Controlling Protests?

How Far Can Cities Go in Controlling Protests?
Posted by FoM on December 03, 2001 at 08:55:12 PT
By Warren Richey Staff Writer of The CSM
Source: Christian Science Monitor 
The Windy City Hemp Development Board makes no secret of its public-policy positions. Members believe marijuana should be legalized. They also believe they have a right to advocate their position by holding protest rallies in public parks. But in March 1997, the Chicago Park District turned down the group's application for a rally permit. Members responded with a lawsuit, claiming that the park-permit process in Chicago was being used as a form of censorship in violation of the First Amendment. 
The city says the permit denial had nothing to do with the group's pro-marijuana message, but was based on permit violations at an earlier rally. The resulting case, Thomas v. Chicago Park District, has touched off a debate over the free-speech implications of government efforts to regulate parks and streets. Today, the debate arrives at the US Supreme Court, where the justices must decide whether denial of the rally permit was a valid exercise of a local licensing scheme designed to run a park smoothly - or whether the denial amounts to an effort by the government to muzzle the Hemp Development Board by preventing it from holding rallies in a city park. Free-speech advocates are hoping the justices use the case to make clear that First Amendment protections extend to government-permit regulations. Similar decisions have been written by federal-appeals judges in cases in New York and Gainesville, Fla. "Core political speech is the center of the First Amendment," says Wayne Giampietro, a Chicago lawyer representing plaintiff Caren Cronk Thomas and the Hemp Board. "It is certainly one of the most precious things that we have, and no government agency is going to be allowed to cut it back in even the slightest way." Seattle Violence Still in Mind  On the other side, city officials are watching the Chicago case to see to what extent they may regulate park and city street operations without running afoul of the Constitution. In addition, the case could help identify constitutionally permissible ways to control large and potentially violent demonstrations. Such protests marred the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999 and prompted a massive police presence at a Washington, D.C., demonstration earlier this year. "Like almost any big city or the national parks, the Chicago Park District has a system of regulations to control the multiple uses that people want to make of the parks," says Steven Weiss, a lawyer for the Chicago Park District. "The denial of the permit has nothing to do with the message that was being advocated." Mr. Weiss says city officials were unaware of the Hemp Board's political message. He says that at the time of the denial, the group's application was signed simply "Ad Hoc Coalition." How the justices will view the case is uncertain, legal analysts say, with no clear majority on any side of the issue. One key will be how the justices view the action by Chicago park officials. Are the permit regulations simply a time, place, and manner restriction enforced by city officials without regard to the type of rally being planned? Or do the park district's actions amount to a form of censorship? In addition, the justices must consider whether permit denials should be afforded special, expedited access to a judge. The judge's role would be to ensure that the permit denial process was in accord with the free-speech guarantees of the US Constitution. A unanimous three-judge panel of the Seventh US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in September of last year that the park's permit denial was not a form of censorship. "It is the censor's business to make a judgment about the propriety of the content or message of the proposed expressive activity," Judge Richard Posner writes in his decision. "The regulation here does not authorize any judgment about the content of any speeches." Regulating vs. Preventing  Instead, the appeals court found that the Chicago Park District was engaged in the business of regulating access to the park, rather than preventing access to targeted permit applicants. "A park is a limited space, and to allow unregulated access to all comers could easily reduce rather than enlarge the park's utility as a forum for speech," Mr. Posner writes. "Just imagine two rallies held at the same time in the same park area using public-address systems that drowned out each other's speakers." Lawyers for the Hemp Board disagree with Posner's analysis. "A government must never be allowed to decide who gets to speak in a public forum and who doesn't," writes Orlando attorney Richard Wilson in his brief on behalf of the Hemp Board. "First Amendment jurisprudence has been turned on its ear," he says. "Unless Posner's decision is reversed, political speakers whose message may be at odds with the current bureaucratic 'party line' will face so many obstacles that many will be silenced." Lani Williams is a lawyer with the International Municipal Lawyers Association in Washington. She says city officials need leeway to be able to run their cities without having to accommodate every group that wants to hold a rally. "The First Amendment doesn't guarantee you the right to express your opinion wherever, and however, and whenever you want. The First Amendment still has to be balanced with other interests," she says. "The position of the Hemp Board is tantamount to saying that we can come along and close down your streets whenever we want to have a parade. That is unworkable." A decision in the case is expected by next June. Note: Case Before High Court Argues Whether Free-Speech Rights Extend To Permit Process.Source: Christian Science Monitor (US)Author: Warren Richey Staff Writer of The CSMPublished: December 03, 2001 - Print EditionCopyright: 2001 The Christian Science Publishing SocietyContact: oped csps.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Million Marijuana March - 1999 - 2001 To Consider Chicago Park Law Pot in a Park or Limits of Free Speech
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on December 04, 2001 at 18:20:42 PT
If I remember it is in the summer. I don't know if there will be Million Marijuana Marches this year at least in the states. I guess because of 9-11 many things could happen to make it hard to gather. Maybe life won't be as complicated in the spring and summer. You never know if we all could meet someday but until then we still get to communicate which is really great. The Internet, they said on the news, is 10 years old. From the humble beginnings to something that is practically unstoppable. I just love the Net.
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Comment #7 posted by SWAMPIE on December 04, 2001 at 17:40:39 PT
I know exactly where that is.about 1/2hour away.Pray tell,when is it?My wife and I need to get out for a day with some"real people"!No More Plastic/Spastic-People for us,thanx!
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on December 04, 2001 at 14:31:10 PT
They have a gathering at Bear Creek Ampitheatre if you know where that is. I've been to Bear Creek but never to a rally or event. I live down in the south east section about 80 miles from the Ohio Hempery.Onward through the fog! I agree!
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Comment #5 posted by SWAMPIE on December 04, 2001 at 01:04:59 PT
It really sucks that any municipal gov't can use these laws to limit our ability to assemble for any reason they want to.All they need to say is that there may be too many people to accomodate(possibly),and the threat of opposing opinions generating an argument between both sides,and the fact that Willie the labrador won't have the space to make Doo-Doo comfortably,and the rest is history...We should have bought the "Coliseum"before the Metropark system got ahold of it,and turned it into a park-convention-center.How many"Northcoasters"would show up for peaceful stoner events if we had been able to do that?I remember the times well,all the great concerts that could have been rallies,etc.Hardly anyone that went there got unruly.My,the times have sure changed!We need a place of our own to assemble!Greenfox,I didn't know that you were a"northcoaster"Good to meet you!Perhaps we should meet and sample some "FoM#1"!LOL! ONWARD THROUGH THE FOG!! SWAMPIE
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on December 03, 2001 at 11:58:16 PT
That is good you are able to help Northcoast NORML. We live so far away and can't get away very easily. It's perfect for doing news though. I remember the lighter article.
Fair Puts Lid on Marijuana Group
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Comment #3 posted by greenfox on December 03, 2001 at 11:49:58 PT
It's interesting FoM, because..
I do some local work for Northcoast NORML. Now, John Hartman is the "leader" of this activist group, so to speak. He's a great guy and we've worked a lot of fun stuff together, but there's one issue that comes up again and again: censorship. At a local fair, we got kicked out because we were selling "norml" lighters to the chil-drun. Careful to note the booth just a few feet to the left was selling Harly lighters, but they were exempt because, in that case, the lighters were "not being sold as tools for arson but rather collectables". Right. :P In any event, that little stunt (and many like it by many other cities,) help to keep prohibition running strong. You see, by keeping the facts from people, of course they are going to keep voting for harsher drug laws- they are dealing with tainted data! And this article is just an example of the government manipulating the public via bullshit like I just described. And what REALLY gets me is that if Tom or George were still alive, (Jefferson and Washington, of course,) they would be OUTRAGED! The constitution doesn't say "freedom of speech once permit is obtained, or freedom to assemble as long as it doesn't make the parks look bad," it just plain old says FREEDOM TO ASSEMBLE. PERIOD! So many times throughout history do we take the meanings so clearly placed in the constitution and manipulate them for the evil of all evils- MONEY.And Dan B, (I think you're the one who said it,) I agree. I think Shrub dunnit. I think he's responsible. Maybe not directly, but isn't it SICK that he's making money on war? on people dying? And the bush family just gets bigger and bigger... and the SCARRIEST part???!?!?!?! no one cares. (well, not no one- we care, but such a small per cent....)sly in green, come on you know it by now,-gf
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on December 03, 2001 at 09:37:12 PT
Hi greenfox
You notice the ruling is due in June. The marches are in May. Spin! Spin! Spin!
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Comment #1 posted by greenfox on December 03, 2001 at 09:34:49 PT
This is bullshit. In fact, I don't think that this will be overturned. Censorship!
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