At Cleveland GOP Convention, ‘First Amendment Zones’ Will Detain Protesters Far Away From Trump

Once upon a time, all of America was a First Amendment Zone. That’s now as dead as Alexander Hamilton.

The city of Cleveland revealed part of its security plan for the Nuremberg rally Republican National Convention. Securing the convention will require a heavily policed, fenced off 3.3 square-mile First Amendment Zone. A fun fact is that the First Amendment Zone is about the same size as Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Free speech zone from the 2012 Democratic Convention
Free speech zone from the 2012 Democratic Convention

The Zone concept in Cleveland is to ensure that the people’s rights to free speech are “preserved,” only someplace far enough away that no one can hear them, and surrounded by police so that the speech stays in line.

The ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit to change or block the Zone; the result was only a slight enlargement of the area allotted.

“What the city has done here is draw a gigantic blanket area that covers most of downtown Cleveland,” says Elizabeth Bonham, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. “When the government takes the extreme step of limiting speech and assembly in any way, the burden is on them to justify that those restrictions are reasonable.”

Access into the Cleveland Zone will be controlled by law enforcement, who also will regulate protests and other activity (no details available on what that means; I guess people will need to experiment with what free speech will get them Tasered.) No tennis balls, baseballs, umbrellas with metal tips, ladders, sticks, poles, strollers, flashlights, balloons (?) or bike locks will be allowed. The Zone will be overseen by the Cleveland police, the FBI, FEMA, and the U.S. Secret Service.

Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson has said the Zone and other crowd control measures are “an attempt to balance between safety, security and constitutional rights of people and ensure we have a successful convention.”

Ah yes, the old standby of “balancing” security and inalienable rights. Gotta love that. Now let’s go bust some hippie heads!

BONUS: The use of First Amendment Zones is Constitutional under many circumstances. The Supreme Court, via Ward v. Rock Against Racism, developed a four-part analysis to evaluate the constitutionality of time, place and manner (TPM) restrictions. To pass muster under the First Amendment, TPM restrictions must be neutral with respect to content, narrowly drawn, serve a significant government interest, and leave open alternative channels of communication. The test case had to do with a concert that people nearby felt was too loud, and has been expanded to cover the use of First Amendment Zones.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

6 thoughts on “At Cleveland GOP Convention, ‘First Amendment Zones’ Will Detain Protesters Far Away From Trump”

  1. There has never been a “right” to trespass or disrupt a meeting. The bit about Petitioning For Redress in the First Amendment meant exactly that. Gather to present a Petition to the government, NOT gather to scream and punch and bite like feral jackals.

    1. And when does a public space such as streets, parks, other places where the Federal State and Local Governments have spent large amounts of Taxpayer Bread become private property on which We The Peasants dare not tread? Tell that elitist bull-oney to yo’ momma. You’re not better or endowed with any more “special rights” than anybody else.

    2. Perhaps the “feral Jackals” only have their teeth, feet and hands to fight the Political Machine and the Tame Pigs who serve that machine.
      Since your royal highnesses are not going to allow us to disagree except in a forum of YOUR choosing and under YOUR Royal Rules.

      Alle Sieg Heil am der Fuhrer Trump! and his non-elite elitist minions.

  2. Yeah, whatever. It’s not a private meeting. And it’s obviously being
    subsidized by the City, County, State and Federal (taxpayers)
    governments. The Pigs obviously get full subsidized free speech. And the
    only times we ever bite is when one of us has 5 pigs holding him down
    and beating him. The Republican “elite” rich bitches get to call us
    every thing they want but we’re not allowed to speak back without one of
    their minions calling us feral jackals.

    There is a way to break
    kettling. The British did it in London during the preparations for the
    Taxpayer Subsidized Multi-million pounds weddings of the Hell-Spawn of
    the Overly Privileged Hereditary Dictatorship. Almost got Charlie and
    Cow-Milla out of their car.

    But don’t you worry, we’ll respect
    your Publicly Funded private meeting to the fullest extent of what the
    non-elite elitists actually deserve.

  3. After so many “protests” against Trump which were in fact harassment and attempts to disturb or even disrupt the Trumpists’ meetings, police and administration have to be careful.
    Priority belongs to the people who have announced their meeting at first: the Republicans. Theirs is the freedom of assembly and speech which has to be protected above all. Opponents ought to be allowed as long as they don’t endanger the fredom of assembly and speech for the Republicans.
    So this is a conflict between two groups’ freedoms. When Peter van Buren pretends that it is a mere conflict between “security” and “freedom of speech”, this is quite beneath his usual level of arguing.

  4. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Where does it say that “everyone is free to attack and suckerpunch every one that disagrees with you”?

    If demonstrators only made speech, no such zones would be needed.

    “Peaceful assembly” means just that, not attacking people that hold other values than you.

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