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Mon Sep 10, 2012, 12:16 PM

Was free speech on mute during the conventions?


Was free speech on mute during the conventions?


By Ann O'Neill, CNN

updated 2:13 PM EDT, Sun September 9, 2012

http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/08/politics/conventions-protests-free-speech-zones/index.html

<snip>

On Tuesday, the first day of the Democratic convention, about 100 protesters blocked the intersection across the street from "the pen," demanding their free speech rights and entangling police in a two-hour standoff that ended peacefully when the skies opened up for the daily downpour.

"At least they gave us some entertainment," said a city worker overseeing the free speech area, which had to be one of the loneliest convention assignments. He passed the time reading a biography of Yogi Berra.

Such was the state of free speech here during last week's Democratic convention, and at the Republican convention the week before in Tampa, Florida.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to freely practice one's religion and publicly speak one's mind without government constraint or interference. It also gives citizens the right to assemble and to air their grievances to their government. But the law remains unsettled on whether the government has the power to say where.

The Supreme Court has established guidelines to measure whether speech restrictions pass constitutional muster. The restrictions must be neutral and not based on content, and they must be specific; they must serve a significant government interest, such as public safety; and they must provide for alternative means of communication.

The free speech zones are meant to be that alternative means of communication, but the Lawyers Guild advises clients to avoid them and use the public sidewalks.

<snip>

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