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Federal court orders Guiliani Administration to open steps of City Hall to AIDS organization to commemorate World AIDS Day.

In a case brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), United States District Court Judge Harold Baer ordered the Giuliani Administration to open the steps of City Hall to permit Housing Works, an AIDS service and advocacy group, to hold an event on the steps to mark World AIDS Day Tuesday, December 1. In August 1998 the Administration closed the steps to public events, purportedly out of security concerns.

Judge Baer rejected the City’s argument that security concerns required that the area around City Hall be closed to public events. In doing so, he noted that the City itself recently had permitted two huge events in that area — the rally for the New York Yankees on October 23 and the event for John Glenn on November 16. For each of those events, the City had permitted thousands of people to be on plaza at City Hall.

Norman Siegel, the NYCLU’s Executive Director, hailed the decision, noting, “This is yet another example of the federal courts vindicating the fundamental First Amendment right of of New Yorkers to protest.” Christopher Dunn, NYCLU Staff Attorney, stated, “The Mayor cannot reserve public places for those events he favors while closing them off to groups, like Housing Works, that criticize him.”

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