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NYCLU Files Federal Suit Challenging New York City’s Refusal To Allow Anti-War Demonstrators To March At United Nations

The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed suit on behalf of a coalition of anti-war groups who wish to conduct a public march in conjunction with a large anti-war demonstration planned for February 15, 2003, at the United Nations. The New York City Police Department yesterday informed the coalition — named United for Peace and Justice — that it would not allow any march to take place anywhere in the City as part of the event. The federal court has scheduled an emergency hearing for Friday afternoon.

New York City routinely issues parade permits for similarly sized or larger marches and parades, including this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue, which is scheduled to take place approximately one month after the plaintiff’s planned event. And on at least three prior occasions, the NYPD allowed huge protest marches to proceed past the United Nations, all of which took place without meaningful problem.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, “The streets of New York historically have been available for parades and marches for many causes. The current controversy concerning American intentions to attack Iraq is perhaps the most pressing national issue in the United States today, and it outrageous that New York City will not allow a peace march to take place. We would have expected this of Rudy Giuliani but not Michael Bloomberg.”

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, who is the lawyer handling the case, said, “If the NYPD is willing to allow hundreds of thousands of people to participate in parades like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Labor Day Parade, and the Puerto Rican Day Parade, we do not understand why the Department will not allow a similarly sized march of anti-war demonstrators. The Bloomberg’s position in this matter departs dramatically from the rich tradition of public protest in New York City.”


Court bans peace march

February 10, 2003 — The court today sustained the city’s denial of a march permit for the peace demonstration on February 15. The NYCLU will file an appeal this afternoon.

At a hearing on Friday, February 7, the city acknowledged that it is imposing a blanket prohibition against permits for marches or parades other than the annual, “predictable”, “cultural” ones like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The city justifies its position based on “non-specific” terrorist threats unrelated to the demonstration.

The city has agreed to permit a stationary rally five blocks north of the United Nations at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, First Avenue at 47th Street.

Anti-war march permit appeal rejected

February 12, 2003 — Today the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling that the City did not violate the First Amendment in denying a permit for the anti-war march on Saturday. The NYCLU argued that the city ban on political marches of over 1000 people violates the First Amendment. This decision is a severe blow to the rights and tradition of political protest in New York City.

The only good news in the opinion is that it was expressly limited to the facts of this situation. But the blanket denial of a permit for a march sets a terrible precedent. Whatever hopes we may have harbored for a city administration that, for a change, respects the First Amendment have been dashed by the city’s handling of the permit application for this event. The NYCLU will continue to challenge what we believe to be the City’s unconsitutional post-911 policy of denying parade permits to political demonstrations of over 1000 people.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for our front line defense of civil liberties at this critical juncture. Civil liberties members and supporters have come forward to provide invaluable assistance in the appeal and have advocated for our position with policy makers and in the public arena. Despite the short notice, the Brennan Center and the Center for Constitutional for Rights filed amicus briefs.

As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
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