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Press Releases from ACLU of Pennsylvania
City of Philadelphia Reverses Denial of March Permit During DNC
PHILADELPHIA - The ACLU of Pennsylvania announced today that the city of Philadelphia has reversed its earlier stance and will grant a permit to the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) for its march on Broad Street during the Democratic National Convention. In addition to issuing PPEHRC’s permit, the city has also agreed to permanently eliminate its blanket ban on marches during afternoon “rush hour,” which it defined as 3 – 6 p.m.
The permit was granted for the time and locations originally requested. A spokesperson for the city recently stated incorrectly that PPEHRC had agreed to change the start time of its march.
“Nothing has changed. We will assemble on the south side of Broad Street and march at 3 p.m., as we requested. I hope that now the city will turn its attention to the poverty in our city,” said Cheri Honkala, head of the PPEHRC, a social justice organization dedicated to ending poverty.
The city had initially denied PPEHRC’s application for a permit to march from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center on July 25, citing among its reasons its unwritten policy of banning protest marches during rush hour. The city now says it will evaluate each permit request on a case-by-case basis.
The city of Philadelphia’s agreement resulted from a federal lawsuit the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed on June 23, 2016, challenging the city’s denial of PPEHRC’s permit. In its complaint, plaintiffs had noted that the city routinely authorizes extended street closures on Center City streets during this time on weekdays for other activities, such as victory parades, block parties, and restaurant events.
“This is a victory for not only our clients but for the First Amendment,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We appreciate the city of Philadelphia’s willingness to reconsider its position and to make Philadelphia a place where all voices can be heard during the DNC.”
PPEHRC is represented by Mary Catherine Roper and Molly Tack-Hooper of the ACLU-PA and Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
A copy of the original complaint is available here: www.aclupa.org/PPEHRC
June 23, 2016
ACLU-PA Sues City of Philadelphia Over Free Speech Restrictions During DNC
PHILADELPHIA - The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC), a social justice coalition that was denied a permit to hold a march on Broad Street during the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
“We are filing the lawsuit today because the last thing that poor people have is their voice, and we can't allow our voice to be taken away,” said Cheri Honkala, head of the PPEHRC.
“We are outraged that we have been denied our rights to march. Dr. Martin Luther King said it best in the sixties,” she continued, “but it applies to today - 'the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights.' The two largest obstacles to ending poverty are that poor people have been made invisible in this country, and the American people have been sold the politics of scarcity. The only way to combat these two things is for the American people to see and hear from the people on the front lines themselves.”
PPEHRC applied for a permit to march from City Hall to the doorstep of the DNC on July 25, the official opening day of the convention, to confront the Democratic Party leadership with the continuing failure of the government to address the suffering of poor people. The time and the route chosen would enable their message to be seen and heard by the greatest number of visitors and Philadelphians, and marchers would reach FDR Park approximately the same time that the DNC formally starts inside the Wells Fargo Center.
The city of Philadelphia refused to issue a permit for the march because it would fall within the city’s unwritten ban on marches in Center City streets during the hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. However, according to the complaint, the city routinely authorizes extended street closures on Center City streets during this time on weekdays, as evidenced by a list on the city’s own events webpage. This spring, the city has closed Center City streets during so-called rush hour for victory parades, block parties, and restaurant events.
The city also routinely allows protests in Center City during supposed “rush” hours at the discretion of the police. The refusal to grant a permit, however, leaves protesters to take their chances on whether the police will stop or allow their protest.
The complaint argues that the city cannot give block parties and celebrations more access to the streets than is given protest groups, and that barring any street protests for five hours out of every weekday is an unjustified restriction on protest.
“Political conventions are a time when the nation’s attention is focused on the problems facing our country. It is vital to our democracy that there be every opportunity for public participation in that national conversation,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
PPEHRC and thousands of poor residents of the city marched peacefully from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center on the opening day of the Republican National Convention in 2000 along the same route.
PPEHRC is a multi-racial, intergenerational movement made up of poor, low-income, and homeless families across the country. It is organized around the universal declaration of human rights and is dedicated to taking up where Dr. Martin Luther King left off on building a poor people's movement. Its goal is to eliminate poverty.
A copy of the complaint is available here: www.aclupa.org/PPEHRC
June 15, 2016
ACLU Asks Mayor Kenney to Protect Dissent During DNC
PHILADELPHIA - The ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter to Philadelphia
Mayor Jim Kenney today asking him to clarify the city’s position on
protest activity during the Democratic National Convention. The letter
is in response to recent statements by the city’s law department that
contradict previous promises not to interfere with protesters.
“We are very troubled that the city seems to be walking back from its previous position of fully accommodating protest during the Democratic National Convention,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “With the eyes of the country – and the world -on Philadelphia during the DNC, there is no better time to show respect for the fundamentally American tradition of peacefully expressing dissent. We hope Mayor Kenney will commit to ensuring that as many protesters as possible will have their voices heard.”
The issues raised in the letter include the city’s new proposal to prohibit all marches on Broad Street and those taking place during rush hour; the city’s plan for handling protesters demonstrating without permits, and fencing around FDR Park, where many protests will be held.
June 15 Letter to Mayor Kenney [PDF]
June 17 Response [PDF]