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    Philly Not Planning Crackdown on Protesters at DNC Convention

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    As Cleveland officials announced that they will fence off a 3.3 square mile area to bar protesters from getting close to the Republican National Convention, Philadelphia officials have taken the opposite tack, announcing that they will not be doing the same for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) the following week.

    Officials in Philadelphia have stated that they will be “respecting the First Amendment rights” of all protesters during the DNC, provided they have the proper permits. Law enforcement in the city also announced that no permits would be granted for protests during rush hour or for camping in nearby FDR Park.

    Tens of thousands of people, particularly supporters of Bernie Sanders, are planning to protest the event.

    "There is no intended 'crackdown' on un-permitted protesting," city solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante wrote in a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania.

    The ACLU had written to the city regarding their concerns that major streets would be blocked off from protesters who wish to march and express their dissent.

    "We are gratified that the city has reconsidered its ban on marches on Broad Street," said ACLU deputy legal director in Pennsylvania Mary Catherine Roper to the Associated Press. "It is where Philadelphians have marched for decades in both celebration and dissent."

    While the ACLU celebrated the march allowance, they are less pleased about the rules that have been set in place for permits.

    "We will continue to press for both access and clarity for protesters so that the DNC will not be just a showcase for party mechanics, but also a genuine celebration of democratic — small 'd' —values,” Roper said.

    Many protest organizers have stated that while they will attempt to obtain permits, denial will not be a deterrence.

    "The First Amendment is our permit," Scott Williams, an organizer with the International Action Center, told AP of their planned march.

    The city has passed legislation allowing police to issue $100 fines instead of making criminal arrests for the typical charges incurred during protests, including disorderly conduct, blocking a street, and failure to disburse, but have prepared space to house protesters in the Holmesburg Prison gymnasium in case of mass arrests.

    In Cleveland, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit to reduce the parameter which protest will be barred from.

    “What the city has done here is draw a gigantic blanket area that covers most of downtown Cleveland,” Elizabeth Bonham, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, told Boing Boing. “When the government takes the extreme step of limiting speech and assembly in any way, the burden is on them to justify that those restrictions are reasonable. Here there are no alternatives.”

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    ACLU, Republican National Convention, Democratic National Convention, DNC, RNC, Cleveland, Philadelphia
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