Another court has sided with the city of St. Paul in the latest round of lawsuits over public access to the Republican National Convention, finding this week that under current plans, demonstrators will get close enough to the Xcel Energy Center.
A band of protest groups had sued for better positioning outside the four-day event that kicks off Monday. But Judge Kathleen Gearin wrote in a seven-page opinion that while the 180,000-square foot space across from the arena may not be "ideal," and protesters are "understandably frustrated" the plan won’t position them closer to the delegates, "Is it constitutionally adequate in light of all the relevant circumstances? Yes."
"Plaintiffs’ free speech rights will have some restrictions during this Convention," Gearin wrote. "Given the unique geography of the City of Saint Paul, the number of people attending the Convention, the space that the national and international media needs in order to assure that freedom of the press is honored, the (protest) space cannot be expanded."
The groups sought in two lawsuits, Rowley v. St. Paul and Twin Cities Peace Campaign v. St. Paul, a larger space and another viewing area. Other groups have already targeted the convention set-up for protesters in federal court, but Gearin said in her ruling this suit was distinct because it dealt with public sidewalks and streets throughout the convention — not just a one-day parade.
Gearin noted "there will be 15,000 media representations looking for stories," saying the demonstrators will have "ample alternative means to communicate their messages."
In other RNC-related news, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has this story about protesters meeting Thursday and calling for local authorities not to interfere with journalists reporting on the demonstrations. With the convention looming, a few incidents have cropped up in the last few weeks in which cameramen were stopped and searched or, the Pioneer Press said, outright barred from filming in and around the Twin Cities.