June 14, 2016; Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio sued the city of Cleveland over its rules and regulations for protests and marches for the upcoming Republican National Convention (RNC). The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Citizens for Trump, Organize Ohio, and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, claims that the restrictions violate freedom of speech and that the city has not followed its initial policy of granting permits for protests and marches on a first-come-first-served basis.
The ACLU’s main goals with this lawsuit are to reduce the restrictions, increase the hours per day for protests and marches, and allow greater access for marches and protests in areas that will be more visible to the main event space, the Quicken Loans arena. In addition, the ACLU is seeking immediate action on permit applications for the three groups that have applied for permits. Not knowing if the permit is approved or denied is prohibiting each group from being able to organize its supporters to have the greatest impact. A hearing is scheduled for today, June 23rd, to address these issues.
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In the meantime, the city of Cleveland responded on Monday, stating that its rules for marches and protests are in line with those used by other cities that hosted conventions in the past. Further, to change the rules now could negatively impact public safety. Changing the parade route could create traffic issues for citizens who still must report to work that week, and would disrupt the plans for shuttling delegates and media to and from the Convention. The city also stated that it has approved 51 permits for protests and marches, including for Citizens for Trump one of the organizations named in the ACLU’s filing. Other organizations that have had their permits approved include the League of Women Voters, the Cleveland Immigration Network, Revolution Books bookstore, and the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.
However, the statement also confirmed that the city had denied a permit for Organize Ohio, a statewide organization that supports community organizing to bring about change on issues like housing, poverty, and the state budget. Organize Ohio had planned a march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the race riots in the Hough neighborhood, which began on July 18th—the same day that the RNC opens. Representatives from Organize Ohio plan to appeal the decision and claim that they will march regardless.—Kelley Malcolm