Thursday, September 17, 2009

DAY TWO Update 001 -- G-20 Protest Permits - The Judge's Ruling

[These are my raw notes from the courtroom; they will often consist or keywords and phrases and are not a comprehensive log or transcript.]

10:00 AM: Like me, some attorneys on this case thought that Judge Gary Lancaster's ruling would be filed electronically. Word came that the attorneys are to be here in the judge's courtroom. Once again, the courtroom is full and everyone is anticipating the judge entering shortly.

10:05 AM : "All rise. This honorable court is now in session..."

Judge: ordinary in a case like this I would draft a written opinion.. since time is of the essence here, benefit the parties to have a ruling. The certified transcript will serve as the ruling of the

Judge: Notes that some of the original plaintiffs have been granted permits since the suit was filed. (Remaining) plaintiffs allege their constitutional 1st and 14th amendment rights are being violated.

Judge says plaintiffs seek:

-Permit CodePink to stage event in Point State Park from Sunday 7pm to Tuesday 7pm.

-Permit Thomas Merton Center to March from City County Building to 7th Street Bridge and rally at bridge.

-Permit camping overnight at Schenley Park in Oakland.

Judge: Court has analyzed claims presented at hearing. Plaintiffs must demonstrate likelihood of ultimate success on merits, irreparable harm if not granted, public interest be served by granting relief.

Judge: a preliminary injunction is not a matter of right.


Judge: On Thomas Merton Center request to march from Oakland to City County Building to 7th St Bridge. Estimate that 5,000 to 7,000 would participate in the march.

Judge: Rights under 1st amendment are not absolute. Plaintiffs do not allege restrictions are content based. Government interest in safety and in protecting visiting leaders are valid.

Judge: Defendants have legitimate interest in establishing a security perimeter and in making sure 7th Street Bridge remain passable. City showed would significantly burden already strained police. Bridge has only to points of entry and exit.

Judge: Defendants have demonstrated not overly broad. Refusal to allow thousands of protesters to stop on the bridge is not overly broad.

Judge: Defendants have provided evidence justifying the security perimeter. The heart of plaintiff's argument is that it would be more convenient/less restrictive if their request was granted. Modern technology makes being in proximity less critical. Media outlets will be able to cover... info can be spread via YouTube, Facebook, for example. 1st amendment rights would not be violated by restrictions.


Judge: On request for order to allow them to camp overnight in Schenley Park. He has serious doubts that sleeping overnight is "expressive conduct" so that the 1st amendment applies. Plaintiffs have not met that burden. Evidence is that their request is to accommodate people traveling to Pittsburgh to protest who have no other place to stay. Says they could camp at state park would camping is permitted for example. No evidence that overnight camping would send any message not sent during daylight hours. Even if camping is expressive conduct, no evidence that city prohibition on camping and park hours is content-based. 300 to 600 camping for six days would be burden on city.

Judge: City has legitimate interest in making sure its parks are adequately protected. If this the were to allow this group to camp, based on expressive conduct, no doubt other groups would press for same... create burden on city.

City's action does not violate the 1st amendment. The city does not have a constitutional obligation to provide out of town protesters living accommodations.


Judge: On CodePink and Point State Park. Notes Junior Great Race has permit for weekend before and Great Race for weekend after. Plaintiff argues that granting of permit to event associated with PA State Senator Jim Ferlo is content based. Judge says plaintiffs are not likely to prevail on this. No evidence city denied CodePink's permit based on content of their message. Finds city acted in a content neutral manner. But city has not shown that it's actions were narrowly tailored.

Evidence shows breakdown from Junior Great Race is completed by Sunday 5pm. Denial is not narrowly tailored. Denial would be harm first amendment rights. Public interest would be best served by granting permit to CodePink. Ordering city to permit CodePink to use park from after breakdown from race. From 7pm Sunday to 7pm Tuesday during regular park hours.


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