Federal Judge Rules Protesters Cannot March Through RNC Security Zone

The judge ruled against a coalition of groups led by the ACLU, siding with the city of Milwaukee ahead of next week’s Republican convention.

A federal judge ruled Monday that protesters can’t march through a security zone near the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, handing a loss to demonstrators who wanted to get closer to next week’s event.

U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig said in his order that protesters, under the First Amendment of the Constitution, have the right to protest and march at the convention. However, he reasoned that the amendment “does not allow them to protest or parade in any way they choose,” meaning they cannot traverse through a city-mandated security zone that was set up around the event.

His ruling added that Milwaukee city officials and the U.S. Secret Service have worked to balance protesters’ right to express themselves as well as “legitimate security and other governmental interests.”

“The vast majority of the resulting security plan is a reasonable and valid time, place, and manner regulation on speech,” Judge Ludwig said, denying the protesters’ petition to gain closer access to the Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee, home to the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups, who sued the city of Milwaukee over its ordinance that targeted parade and protest activity at the Republican National Convention, which is being held July 15 to July 18 and is expected to draw thousands of people, including top Republican politicians and officials such as former President Donald Trump.

The convention will be closed to all except for politicians, media members, volunteers, and delegates, according to the convention website. During the event, delegates will likely move to confirm former President Trump as the GOP nominee for November’s general election.

In response to the ruling, an ACLU spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Tuesday that it is disappointed that there is still no “authorized parade route within sight and sound of the convention.”

“We still believe that the City’s failure to act concerning our client’s permit application, its delay in establishing a protest zone and a parade route until weeks before the convention, and its decision to push protesters even further away from the convention site with the expansion of the credentialed zone chill freedom of expression and restrict the exercise of First Amendment rights,” the group said.

The ACLU then called on the city to “follow the Constitution” to make sure protesters can demonstrate “without unnecessary interference from law enforcement.”

In their lawsuit, the groups argued that the city’s ordinance was not “narrowly tailored” and said that parades and demonstrations are banned for “seventeen hours per day”

“In the seven remaining hours, parades are limited to a single, so-far undisclosed, route that unduly constrains marchers’ expressive activity,” they contended, adding that the ban is too broad and falls short of the city’s obligations under the First Amendment.

In Monday’s order, the judge sided with the ACLU and other groups on one issue. He ruled that city officials erred in issuing an ordinance that allowed the city to deny demonstrators’ and speakers’ applications based on their prior criminal history.

Judge Ludwig said Milwaukee city officials had “overstepped their authority in reserving their ability to deny protest permits based on” a prior criminal conviction.

Both the city and the protest groups have a July 10 deadline if they seek to pursue other legal options ahead of the event.

Ahead of both the Republican and Democratic conventions the head of the Secret Service told ABC News on Sunday that there is no evidence suggesting there are credible threats against either event. For the Democratic National Convention, which will be held next month in Chicago, several pro-Palestinian groups have said they will protest even if no permit is granted by Chicago officials, and similar lawsuits have been filed.

Responding to potential protests, U.S. Secret Service Director Kim Cheatle said the agency and local police departments will “respect the right for everybody to be able to express their First Amendment rights,” adding they welcome people to come out and express such rights.

“Where we have concerns is if those potential demonstrations turned violent, and then appropriate action would be taken,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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