Judge overturns restrictions on GOP convention protests

A federal judge on Thursday scrapped restrictions on potential protests at next month’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to a new report.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin ruled the city’s proposed guidelines may burden demonstrators’ free speech, Cleveland.com reported.

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The website said Gwin’s decision forces Cleveland to redraw an “event zone” meant for managing a massive number of people who could gather outside the event next month.

Gwin targeted several aspects of the zone’s suggested parameters, noting their accompanying rules were not conducive to free speech.

Gwin first criticized the zone’s proposed size, calling the space surrounding Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena “unduly large” for the city’s purposes.

Cleveland.com said the convention is taking place at the arena, meaning the surrounding environment requires the most security.

Gwin also called aspects of the zone’s guidelines for patrons “unconstitutionally insufficient” for free speech, citing suggested parade routes and local parks.

“[There are] constitutional problems with the use of the parks. And I don’t mean to suggest the city can’t control the time and the parade routes, but I think the restriction to this Lorain-Carnegie Bridge at times when delegates are almost invariably not going to be present is an insufficient opportunity for First Amendment purposes.”

Thursday’s ruling follows a parade the day before celebrating the Cleveland Cavaliers’ national basketball championship.

City attorney Stewart Hastings estimated 1.3 million people marched in the celebration, slightly higher than Cleveland’s official estimate of 1 million.

Hastings said Cleveland expects between 50,000 and 100,000 people during next month’s convention, adding he expects a different atmosphere between both events.

“A celebration of happy fans is very different than the people I expect to come to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention,” he said. 

“[This is an] ideal target for international and domestic terrorists,” Hastings added of the convention.

Cleveland maintains its proposed event zone would ensure the safety and security of visitors during next month’s convention.

Cleveland.com said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio brought a lawsuit disagreeing with the zone’s restrictions.

Cleveland and ACLU of Ohio are now negotiating an alternative event zone that satisfies the concerns of both sides, the news website added.

“A negotiated settlement is way better,” ACLU of Ohio executive director Christine Link said.

The 2016 Republican National Convention is scheduled for July 18-21 in downtown Cleveland.