Friday, April 20, 2012

Free Speech Activities Planned During DNC in Charlotte

Today the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County clarified plans for
respecting and accommodating citizens' and visitors' First Amendment
right to free speech and peaceable assembly during the Democratic
National Convention (DNC) scheduled September 4-6, 2012.

The US Supreme Court has characterized public streets, sidewalks, and
parks as "traditional public forum." The use of traditional public
forum property is not, however, free from all government regulation.
Specifically, reasonable time, place, and manner regulations may be
applied so long as they are content-neutral, narrowly tailored to
serve a significant governmental interest, and leave reasonable
alternative avenues of communication. For example, one does not have a
constitutional right to march through the intersection of Trade and
Tryon Streets during the Monday morning rush hour. Instead, the City
may restrict such a demonstration to other times or locations that are
not disruptive to the necessary flow of rush hour traffic.

Under current City ordinances, individuals and groups may demonstrate
on City sidewalks at any time anywhere within the City, without a
permit. Except on sidewalks that may be closed for security,
transportation, or logistical reasons, individuals and groups will be
allowed to demonstrate on City sidewalks during the DNC, as they are
today, without a permit. Similarly, County parks will be available for
individuals and groups to demonstrate during the DNC without a permit.
These properties will not be subject to reservation by anyone,
including the DNC Committee and Host Committee; instead, they will be
open to anyone and everyone, for peaceable assembly and expressive

With regard to parades and marches in the streets, and consistent with
the practice in previous convention cities, the City will establish a
parade route during the DNC. The City will also establish a "speakers'
platform," a location where City-provided microphones and
amplification equipment will be provided to individuals and groups
wishing to express their opinions. The City is developing an online
application process for time slots for parades and access to the
speakers' platform. A random lottery will be used to allocate times.
The online application process as well as parade route and speakers'
platform locations will be announced in early June and accessible at Applications will be taken for one month and
the lottery will be held in early-July.

Again, it is important to note that the parade route and speakers'
platform are not the only locations where individuals and groups may
exercise their First Amendment rights. Sidewalks and parks, unless
closed for security or logistical reasons, will be open and available
to everyone for expressive activity.

The City and County have two goals: (1) to respect and protect the
First Amendment rights of our citizens and visitors; and (2) to
preserve the peace, provide public safety, and ensure an enjoyable
convention experience for all.