A federal judge on Thursday ruled that Cleveland’s regulations governing protests and marches during next month’s Republican National Convention infringe on the right of free expression and he ordered the city and a civil rights organization to begin negotiating new rules.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sued the city on behalf of two groups planning events — Citizens For Trump and left-leaning Organize Ohio — and an advocacy group for the homeless. The lawsuit claimed that the route designated for protest marches would largely be on a bridge and would be unobserved and that hours when marches could be scheduled were restricted to times when convention delegates would not be at Quicken Loans Arena, the convention venue.
U.S. District Judge James Gwin agreed with the ACLU’s claim. He also ruled that the city’s designation of a convention “event zone” covering nearly the entire downtown and prohibiting everyday items such as backpacks, bottles, cans and umbrellas was unconstitutional and too broad.
Cleveland previously rejected applications submitted by Citizens For Trump and Organize Ohio to hold rallies and marches on July 18, the first day of the four-day convention, outside the area where the city said they could have such events.
At the hearing, a city attorney told the judge that Cleveland planned to appeal his ruling. Gwin then ordered both sides into mediation with another federal judge overseeing those talks. Gwin had asked the two sides to negotiate last week.
A spokesman for the city declined to comment after Thursday’s court hearing. ACLU Executive Director Christine Link said her organization was “gratified” by the ruling.
In Philadelphia, which hosts the Democratic National Convention at the end of July, the ACLU there sued the city on Thursday on behalf of anti-poverty activists seeking to demonstrate during rush hour.
The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign plans to march during rush hour from City Hall to a park near the convention site on opening day, July 25. Its application was rejected by the city in May, citing interference with traffic and conflicts with another event, according to the lawsuit.
The city has said it won’t grant permits during rush hour in Center City during the convention and hasn’t specified the boundaries of Center City.
The lawsuit seeks to have a judge declare those timing bans unconstitutional and to grant the group’s permit.