With the Republican National Convention looming over the next four weeks, the city of Cleveland is wrangling the ACLU in court over its own security protocol and asking a federal judge to dismiss the group’s lawsuit.
Last week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the city of Cleveland, asking a federal judge to order the city to loosen its RNC regulations. The group insisted that Cleveland’s security plan restricts the free speech rights of those attending the event. (The suit was filed on behalf of Citizens for Trump, Organize Ohio and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.)
Among the concerns is the parade route, which diverts participants away from the event — from the Lorain-Carnegie bridge to Ontario, and then to Orange Avenue
. The group wants a route that would take protesters closer to Quicken Loans Arena, where, presumably, delegates might see them. Furthermore, the ACLU is requesting that Cleveland process all protest permit applications immediately and relax the “Event Zone” size and restrictions.
“I think the security issue is an excuse for overly severe restrictions. It’s perfectly possible to have organized parades without trouble,” ACLU Executive Director Christine Link said last week.
The city’s main point in its response, which was filed on Monday
, is that it’s kind of too late in the game to tweak security measures that much.
"Plaintiffs' desires to conduct hours-long parades on the routes of their choosing and to monopolize parks, if granted a permit to do so, would shift the City's resources in such a way to limit the channels of communication available to the rest of the public,” Assistant Cleveland Law Director L. Stewart Hastings wrote. The city’s security forces, he maintained, are heavily burdened already during this event.
Other city leaders, Mayor Frank Jackson included, have said for a while now that the mission was to balance free speech rights with safety needs. Even as recently as this month, political rallies for presumptive GOP nominee and talking McRib Donald Trump have led to violent clashes between supporters and protesters.
A hearing on this matter is set for June 23.