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coeur_de_lion Donating Member (935 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 10:20 PM
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Protesters shut down Baywalk in Florida
July 25, 2004 --- ST. PETERSBURG

While all eyes are focused on the protest pens built to contain demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, a smaller but no less significant First Amendment drama is being played out in St. Petersburg, FL, where activists are fighting a proposed city ordinance which would create no protest zones.

The issue surfaced early last week when St. Pete for Peace, an anti-war group which has been holding weekly peace vigils in front of a downtown shopping and entertainment complex called Baywalk, learned that the City Council would be considering legislation to restrict the days, times and locations that demonstrations in St. Petersburg could be held. Not surprisingly, the restrictions included Saturday evening between 7PM and 9PM, which is when the weekly vigils are held. Also not surprisingly, the sidewalk where the demonstrators stand was deemed a "no protest zone".

The proposed ordinance rather disingenuously cited public safety as its impetus, which St. Pete for Peace found curious since there has not been a single protester-related injury or accident in the many, many months that the group has been conducting its vigils. No Baywalk patrons have been leveled by hurtling leaflets, no Baywalk employee has been injured by an unfortunate encounter with a protest sign, no protesters have leapt in front of traffic in order to promote their cause. There has not been so much as a spilled latte during the entire time that St. Pete for Peace has been standing vigil, and in fact, given the number of upscale bars and nightclubs in the complex, one stands a much greater chance of being accosted by a drunken yuppie than by an angry demonstrator.

So, if public safety is not the issue, what is? A video clip from a local television station gives us a clue. Reporting at Baywalk on Saturday night where over 100 people gathered to protest the proposed ordinance, a WTSP reporter begins a portion of his segment with, If the goal is to make businesses at Baywalk thrive a little better than they have been I guess we, the people, must have missed the constitutional amendment that guarantees our freedom of speech except when it threatens the bottom line.

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Mike Niendorff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-25-04 10:38 PM
Response to Original message
1. Schneider v. Irvington, 308 U.S. 147 (1939)

"the streets are natural and proper places for the dissemination of information and opinion; and one is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place."


Game, set, match.

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