Skip to comments.Georgia Passes Laws Limiting Protests
Posted on 04/19/2004 11:51:17 AM PDT by AmericanMade1776
Georgia Passes Laws Limiting Protests Sun Apr 18, 1:34 PM ET Add U.S. National - AP to My Yahoo!
By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press Writer
BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Robert Randall never knew free speech could cost so much in dollars and in compromises until he tried to organize a large-scale, peaceful demonstration for this summer's G-8 summit.
The coastal city of Brunswick, where Randall hopes to gather up to 10,000 people to protest the world leaders' summit, passed a law last month that places conditions on public demonstrations.
Organizers of protests like Randall's "G-8 Carnival" must put up refundable deposits equal to the city's estimated cost for clean up and police protection. Demonstrations may only last 2 hours, 30 minutes. Signs and banners may not be carried on sticks that might be brandished as weapons. And the signs may not be larger than 2-by-3 feet.
"This law would not exist if the G-8 was not coming here," said Randall, 51, a local therapist who has attended demonstrations since the Vietnam War. "It makes it impossible to express oneself through assembly or speech on public property unless you have money."
Thousands of anti-globalization protesters are expected June 8-10 when President Bush (news - web sites) hosts the leaders of Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and Russia on secluded Sea Island.
Brunswick, Savannah and surrounding counties have passed ordinances governing protest permits. The American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) has threatened to sue, saying the laws "place impermissible limits on free speech."
Observers say the cities' actions fit a national pattern of managing dissent with beefed up laws and police powers that constrict constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly.
The new laws are a response to the violent protests during the 1999 World Trade Organization (news - web sites) meeting in Seattle and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Demonstrators are facing some of their toughest restrictions since the 1960s, said Ronald Collins of the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va.
"Post-Seattle and 9-11, it seems more municipalities are considering measures that may well undermine existing First Amendment law," he said.
Miami banned props such as water pistols, balloons and sticks before demonstrators arrived for a global trade summit in November. The city repealed the law last month in the face of lawsuits.
On Thursday, federal appeals court judges ruled that an Augusta, Ga., ordinance violated the rights of a women's group that sought to protest outside the all-male Augusta National Golf Club during the 2003 Masters golf tournament.
The ordinance, adopted just before the tournament, let police keep protesters a half-mile from the club's gates and required a permit for any assembly of five or more people. The appeals court said the law "creates the opportunity for undetectable censorship."
Activists also have complained that security plans for so-called "free speech zones" at the Democratic Convention in Boston will keep protesters from being seen or heard.
Cities "are choosing sides and what they're doing is trying to silence people from speaking out," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a Washington attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice. "And they're using the law as a political tool to do it."
During the G-8 summit in Georgia, both Brunswick and Savannah expect to see protesters.
Brunswick is the nearest inland community to Sea Island, which will be off limits to demonstrators. Savannah, 60 miles north, will house 5,000 international journalists and dignitaries.
With the summit less than two months away, neither city has approved any permits for demonstrations in part, activists say, because of steep requirements.
Brunswick requires groups of six or more to apply for permits at least 20 days before an event. The city's ordinance sets no limit on deposits, and says permits may be denied if a demonstration is likely to congest traffic, impede commerce or endanger the public.
Savannah's law is similar but does not specify the size of groups needing permits, which the ACLU says could be applied to one person.
City officials have said that protesters wanting to use public parks will be charged the same fees $150 to $700 per day as people renting those spaces for private events such as weddings. Groups of 150 or more must pay maintenance deposits of $1.50 per head.
Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson declined to comment, citing the threat of litigation from the ACLU. But City Attorney James Blackburn told the Savannah Morning News the city would review the ordinance in light of the appellate decision on the Augusta lawsuit.
In Brunswick, Randall says he's waiting to find a site for his demonstration before requesting a permit. The city's mayor says the city is trying to help him.
(Excerpt) Read more at story.news.yahoo.com ...
Isn't burning dumpsters, overturning cars, harassing citizens, and smashing windows of businesses already against the law?
I agree with this statement, although speech does not include 'criminal mischeif'. Nobody is especially worried about a bunch of leftists chanting and waving signs around. The problems is all of the destruction that this mob always seems to bring with it. Breaking windows and burning cop cars isn't, in my view, 'speech'.
Any organized gathering like this probably should have to post some kind of assurance that they will cover any "above and beyond" costs, but it seems like the Georgia law is overly restrictive.
Protesters flew planes into buildings on 9-11? WOW! I heard it here first!
Freedom is for everone or it will be for noone.
This is true, however who pays for the ~500 (that's a 20:1 ratio) for law enforcement that the demonstration will likely require? Historically, these protests have resulted in damage to local businesses, assault on the police, overturned cars, and chaos.
In the case of Seattle, the gut-less liberals couldn't see their way to actually pressing charges against the scum that were arrested while burning, looting, assaulting and resisting the officer's attempts at restoring peace.
I like the way you think. If the organizers would post an 'Insurance' bond; or a 'damage deposit'; they would have a vested interest to keep things under control. This way, they get their rights, but they also have some actual responsibility.
Yes, such acts are. I cannot speak for the city of Brunswick or the state of Georgia, but they have a pretty good idea what to expect from the anti G-8 mob. I suspect that it was seen as a 'sit here and take it or do something about it' situation. A better response might have been to rustle up every cop they can get their hands on to be in town and quietly inform the protest organisers that nonsense will not be tolerated.
If your city is going to host a G-8 event, police pay and overtime are part of the cost of doing such business. If I scheduled events for the G-8, I'd lean towards holding them on cruise ships, where the security situation is more easily managed.
Trouble was, the rules were written so broadly that Tech's traditional 'Carol of Lights' Christmas procession also violated them. After the univ was taken to court, Tech went without their Carol of Lights that year, and did away with the 'free speech' rules soon thereafter.
I do not favor acts of government which constrain free speech. I think that this could be handled better.
I don't see April 15th tax protestors doing the things that the G-8 yahoos do. The criminal mischeif is clearly the issue. It also sticks in mind that whenever somebody wants to hold a demonstration in most major cities in the US, they are required by the city to obtain some form of 'protest permit'. This chafes me, because it amounts to requesting the government's permission to peaceably assemble. Permission, can always be denied.
The practical side of it is that cities are obligated to protect the interests of their citizens. A bit of advanced warning that there are going to be thousands of folks, many from out-of-town showing up, most or all of them angry about something, isn't an unreasonable thing to ask. So I am of two minds on the issue of protest permits.
As much as I dislike this bunch of destructive cretins, they are within their rights to peaceably assemble to express their views. When you get a bunch with a track record like theirs, I am not sure what the answer is. There will be trouble. How the city handles it, ultimately remains to be seen. I don't like laws that set bad precedent. But I also don't like groups who willingly and knowingly abuse their rights. On the balance, the first duty of government is to protect the Constututional rights of its citizens, so I disagree with the passage of laws that constrain free speech. I think that it'd have been wise to handle this differently.
Lots of coppery in evidence to deal with the destructive types, would be my first inclination. I am intrigued also by another poster's suggestion that groups who are going to have these kinds of protests put up a bond or financial guarantee against damages and injuries caused, giving them an incentive to police their own. Discuss?
I have no problem with the refundable deposit; the other provisions assume guilt before the fact.