ACLU of Florida Negotiating To Protect Free Speech Rights of Anti-War Protesters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sent a letter today to the Mayor and Chief of Police here expressing its intent to defend the First Amendment rights of protesters and their supporters.
The letter voices concerns about the city’s interference with the rights of protesters near BayWalk, a local downtown shopping and entertainment complex, where a group called St. Pete for Peace has been staging antiwar demonstrations every Saturday night for the past two years. The venue’s owners have objected to the demonstrators and persuaded St. Petersburg police to erect barricades that restrict the demonstrators’ ability to gain access to public sidewalks.
“”Those barricades signaled a new climate of hostility between police and demonstrators,”” said St. Petersburg attorney Mark Kamleiter, who is a member of the ACLU’s Pinellas County Legal Panel and is serving as cooperating attorney for the ACLU. “”Police attitudes toward the demonstrators have been openly confrontational, with arrests taking place and motorists being ticketed for merely tooting their horns in support.””
The ACLU has arranged for a meeting tomorrow with police officials to address how the First Amendment rights of anti-war demonstrators will be protected.
“”The ACLU cares deeply about constitutional guarantees giving people the freedom to assemble and to exchange ideas about the direction their government is taking, “” said West Central Florida Regional Director Rebecca Steele.
Kamleiter added: “”We will be there to support St. Pete for Peace and their right to speak freely for as long as they want to keep demonstrating.””
The ACLU’s letter to police and city officials is online at: http://www.aclufl.org/issues/free_speech/MayorBakerChiefHarmon82605LET.pdf.
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