ACLU sues Cleveland over city’s GOP convention rules

CLEVELAND (AP) — The city of Cleveland’s rules governing protesters expected at the Republican National Convention in July violate free speech rights, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU and other groups want the size and regulations of the event zone covering 3.3 square miles in downtown Cleveland reduced. The lawsuit argues the zone is so large that it imposes “absurdly” broad restrictions over everyone living or working downtown.

The civil rights organization filed the complaint in federal court in Cleveland against the city and Mayor Frank Jackson. It asks for immediate revision of the rules.

The ACLU is concerned about possible limits on free speech, as well.

“The restrictions on speech put in place by the city of Cleveland are arbitrary, unnecessary and unjustifiable,” said Christine Link, executive director for the ACLU of Ohio. “The current rules for demonstrations at the RNC are actively blocking groups from all sides of the political spectrum from participating in their government.”

The group also wants the city forced to immediately act upon permit applications from groups seeking to protest the GOP convention.

“Delays approving permits are already having a chilling effect on speech,” Link said.

Cleveland spokesman Dan Williams said Tuesday that the city doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits.

The city has designated a route for protest marches during the convention while leaving open the possibility that marches would be allowed outside the event zone surrounding the arena where it’s being held July 18-21. Police Chief Calvin Williams said police will try to accommodate those wanting to protest outside the designated area.

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