ACLU to Montgomery County: Do Not Limit Free Speech at Courthouse Square

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
December 5, 2011 4:30 pm

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ACLU of Ohio
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Rules Targeting Certain Groups Are Constitutionally Prohibited

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DAYTON – The ACLU of Ohio has delivered a letter to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, laying out numerous problems with the county’s proposed Courthouse Square speech regulations.

“These regulations specifically target the Occupy Dayton movement,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman. “Residents were able to express their political views for years without incident. Now the Occupy movement shows up and suddenly the rules need to be changed? Our laws cannot be altered for the purpose of silencing one specific group.”

Montgomery County’s proposed regulations would require permits for all Courthouse Square activities. However, the regulations fail to explain what, if any, official criteria the County will use for approving or denying these permits.

Additionally, the regulations would make Courthouse Square off-limits to the public from midnight to 6 a.m. The ban does not differentiate between protestors and pedestrians. As a result, though it may be aimed at occupiers, it would create problems for late-night residents simply looking for a place to sit down and hold a conversation.

“At best, these proposed regulations are sloppy and rife with constitutional conflicts,” said Hardiman. “At worst, they are a series of schemes designed to take away a specific group’s right to assemble.”

“Courthouse Square has a long history as a central location in Dayton where residents gather to express their views. Rather than limit free speech, officials should foster civic engagement,” concluded Hardiman. “We urge the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners to respect everyone’s First Amendment rights and impose as few restrictions on their constituents as possible.”

The Montgomery County Commissioners will meet on Tuesday, December 6th at 1:30 p.m. to vote on the proposed regulations.

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