ACLU says restrictions on Occupy MN ‘run afoul’ of 1st Amendment
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota sent Hennepin County commissioners a letter criticizing new restrictions the county plans to impose on Occupy Wall Street protesters in downtown Minneapolis, who have set up in Hennepin County Government Plaza since the first week of October. While the ACLU isn’t representing the protesters, ACLU legal counsel Teresa Nelson asked that the county rescind the conditions on the protest–including limits on space, personal possessions and temperature–which the county announced earlier this week.
The ACLU of Minnesota said in a press release that restrictions on free speech need to be narrow, definite and objective.
“When a regulatory scheme limits speech in a traditional public forum, the courts take care to ensure that the constitutionally protected expressed activity at issue be protected from government censorship,” Nelson wrote. “Rules such as the new rules that Hennepin County seeks to impose have the effect of subjecting the First Amendment activity to a prior restraint.”
The letter points out that the rules appear to be “ad-hoc” rules that weren’t previously enforced and that are designed to deal with just Occupy MN protesters: ”Because we believe that these new ad-hoc restrictions run afoul of the First Amendment, we request that you revoke your plan to oppose them.”
The letter was sent to Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Hennepin County Administrator Richard Johnson, Hennepin County commissioners and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.