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Case for RNC anti-war protest permit hits Federal Court

by staff |
July 9, 2008
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Minneapolis, MN - With the courtroom packed and many waiting in the hallway, attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union presented a case in federal court, July 9 on behalf of the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War. The Coalition is seeking a preliminary injunction requiring the city of Saint Paul to a issue realistic permit for the Sept. 1 anti-war march.

The city of Saint Paul issued a permit on May 14. The permit issued by the city makes it logistically impossible for a large anti-war march to take place. In addition, the permit issued by the city states the march must end before delegates arrive at the convention.

In a press conference before the hearing, Jess Sundin of Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War stated, “Tens of thousands of people from around the country are coming to Saint Paul to oppose the war on Iraq and to participate in the massive protest that will coincide with the opening day of the Republican National Convention. Mayor Coleman and the city of Saint Paul are blocking our attempts to place our demands of peace and justice on the Republicans. We need a workable permit and we need it now.”

Inside the court room, Coalition lawyers appeared before Judge Joan Erickson and pushed hard for a route that gives real exposure to the Xcel Center while the convention is taking place.

“The permit issued by the city is politically and logistically unacceptable,” says Coalition member Katrina Plotz. “We’re marching to deliver a message that the people of the United States reject this war. The First Amendment guarantees the right to demonstrate. Police have no right to clear us from the streets by 2:00 p.m. when the RNC will not have started yet. It’s also logistically impossible for tens of thousands to march down a narrow street on a short route and return to the capitol along the same street. Even Saint Paul Police Federation president Dave Titus called the city’s route ‘a recipe for disaster.’”

The Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War is made up of more than 100 organizations from across the country, including the main anti-war coalitions. They began seeking permits for this demonstration days after the Republicans announced in 2006 they would hold their national convention in Minnesota. While the Coalition has a permit to assemble and rally at the State Capitol, the city of Saint Paul continues to withhold an adequate permit for a march on the Xcel Center, where the convention will be held.

Judge Erickson is expected to rule on the case early next week.

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