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International Action Center v. City of New York (Challenging denial of group’s right to protest on Fifth Avenue)

This case concerns New York City’s denial of a permit to the International Action Center (IAC) to hold a protest march down Fifth Avenue against the Iraq War. The city denied the permit request despite the fact that the city issues permits for numerous annual cultural parades on the avenue. The IAC has held many protests in the city. However, in March 2005, the city denied the IAC’s permit request, citing a rule that prohibits any march on Fifth Avenue “unless it was held at that location prior to the promulgation of these rules.”

On March 16, 2005, the NYCLU, in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a complaint on behalf of the IAC. The complaint alleged that the city’s rule constitutes a content-based restriction of the right to march, and thus violates the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment. In addition, the complaint alleges that not only does the city lack a substantial interest in preventing specific groups from marching on Fifth Avenue; the city has also withdrawn a previously public forum from those who want to march. The NYCLU seeks a declaratory judgment and damages for the plaintiffs. The city moved for summary judgment and a dismissal of the case. On Dec. 26, 2006, the District Court denied the defendant’s motion and provided the NYCLU with an opportunity to amend the complaint. The amended complaint was filed on Jan. 22, 2007.

In November 2007, the District Court ruled that the city’s rule limiting the number of parades on Fifth Avenue is constitutional. Judge Sidney Stein said the city had justified a cap on parades by showing the rule was needed to prevent congestion in midtown Manhattan. Judge Stein also found that the rule gives city officials too much leeway in deciding when to allow exceptions. He faulted the city for not following its own rule when it allowed a protest march down the avenue during the 2004 Republican National Convention. He ordered the city to stop issuing permits for parades that do not fit one of four exceptions included in the rule. On Nov. 17, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling. 

S.D.N.Y, Index No. 05-cv-2880 (direct) 

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