The ACLU of Ohio sued the city of Cleveland on June 14, stating the city’s rules for protesters planning to be at the Republican National Convention violate the free speech rights of demonstrators and others attending the event.
In the lawsuit the ACLU wanted a reduction in the size of, and the restrictions within, the city’s convention “event zone” — an area that covers much of downtown Cleveland. In short, the ACLU wants protestors to be closer to the main event.
U.S. District Judge James Gwin sided with the ACLU. On June 24, the judge struck down Cleveland’s plans for a 3.3-square-mile event zone to prohibit protests and parades during the Republican National Convention next month. Gwin cited the zone as unconstitutional and an infringement of the rights to free speech and assembly.
During the hearing, Gwin said the size of the event zone around the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention will be held July 18 to 21, is “unduly large.” According to The Atlantic, constitutional “sight and sound” requirements say protesters have the right to be near their targets.
The city said the event zone boundaries were created for the safety of people coming to downtown. However, Gwin questioned the city’s reasoning and asked how the convention protests were different from the more than 1 million people who filled downtown Wednesday for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade and “traveled through streets in what will become the event zone,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
City attorney Stewart Hastings argued the convention has been planned for years and that it was the ideal scene for international and domestic terrorism. “I don’t believe ISIS predicted the Cavs would be in a parade,” Hastings said.
Last night, a terrorist in Nice, France drove a truck through a crowded area leaving 84 people dead and more than 100 injured. Cleveland authorities, the FBI, and Homeland Security are concerned the same thing can and will happen at the GOP Convention.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told a House panel Thursday that he is worried that violence will erupt at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week.
“I am concerned about the prospect of demonstrations getting out of hand,” Johnson told members of the House Homeland Security Committee at a hearing on terrorist threats. “I am concerned about the possibility of violence.”
Johnson said he will travel to Cleveland on Friday to inspect security preparations at and around the convention site. The convention is scheduled to begin Monday and run through Thursday night at the Quicken Loans Arena.
FBI Director James Comey, speaking at the same hearing, said there is a potential for violence any time there is a major political event in the United States.
“It’s a threat we’re watching very, very carefully,” Comey said.
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