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Protesters can't get any closer to the RNC

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  1. Prior Restraint
A federal judge in Minnesota yesterday rejected protesters’ requests to get closer than 84 feet from the Republic National Convention,…

A federal judge in Minnesota yesterday rejected protesters’ requests to get closer than 84 feet from the Republic National Convention, as currently allowed under a St. Paul city protest permit.

As The Associated Press reported, Judge Joan Erickson wrote that the request for closer proximity, from the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, created security hazards.

The coalition estimates that 30,000 to 50,000 participants wanted to get closer to the Xcel Energy Center, where the convention will take place, and parade from the Capitol later in the day when delegates will be there to notice.

But the city protest permit keeps them at least 84 feet away from Xcel’s entrances and orders them to clear the area by mid-afternoon, according to The AP.

Under First Amendment case law, the government may regulate expression only in a content-neutral, narrowly tailored way. Such restrictions must serve a significant state interest and leave open alternative channels of communication. 

The RNC protest policy met these requirements, Erickson wrote in the opinion.

The coalition’s attorney, Teresa Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told The AP the coalition has not yet decided whether it will appeal Erickson’s decision.

Nelson said the ruling weakens the First Amendment and may discourage protesters from attending the march.

City officials claim current practices offer “unprecedented access” to protesters and say the 84-foot rule balances protesters’ rights with those of the delegates, The AP said.

Protesters face similar roadblocks in attempts to be heard at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, set to begin on Aug.25. Current plans for the DNC will keep protesters nearly the length of three football fields away from entrances to the Pepsi Center.

ACLU attorneys will challenge the DNC policy at trial on July 29.