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New York mayor limits speech on city hall plaza

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         NEW YORK         Prior Restraints         Apr 27, 2000    

New York mayor limits speech on city hall plaza

  • Under new city rules, only approved, limited protests will be allowed in the city hall area, prompting an outcry by First Amendment activists and council members.

Under new rules issued April 19 released by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, demonstrations on New York City’s City Hall Plaza can only be conducted with a permit, and lingering, eating and talking in the area is restricted. Giuliani had shut off pedestrian access to the plaza in August 1998.

The emergency edict stated that demonstrators are to henceforth obtain a police permit before they may legally protest on the steps. The New York Police Department will have ten days to review permit applications and protests will be limited to three hours with a maximum of 300 people; exceptions apply to some events such as ticker-tape parades.

“When ticker-tape parades are given precedence over the public’s right to free speech and access, City Hall is in danger,” Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Queens) told the New York Daily News. “These rules fly in the face of the First Amendment.”

Vallone told WNBC-TV that he and other council members are outraged by Giuliani’s decision and plan to pass a law allowing the public an absolute right to walk through the area without advance notice or permits.

“I thought we had an agreement,” Vallone said. “But based upon the rules that came out, it was like we never talked about this. It was like the council members and everybody has to get a permit if you want to have a press conference on the steps of the city-and no one can walk through. Where are we? Are we in New York City, or are we in some place where freedom is totally restricted?”

Giuliani has defended his position by stating that the new rules are meant to resemble those governing the steps of Congress and were set up for security concerns.

“It is absolutely necessary so I can in good conscience say I did what I could to preserve human life and did not get pushed around by some crazies,” The New York Times quoted him as saying.

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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