Re-examine protest permit

A U.S. District Court could change how protesters are seen and heard.

Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War are bringing a case to the U.S. District Court because the protest groups are displeased with route and time limitations a police-issued permit puts on their marches during the Republican National Convention.

While the restrictions placed on protestors by St. Paul are an improvement upon past convention practices in Boston and New York, the city should re-examine the permit’s stringent two-hour time limitation. The current permit would limit the September 1 marches from noon to 2 p.m. – which could land protestors in front of the convention site before the event begins.

St. Paul police officials correctly justified the route restrictions with security and traffic control concerns. Under St. Paul’s current permit, protestors would be able to march from the State Capitol and into downtown St. Paul – ending across the street from the Xcel Energy Center and putting them within sight and sound of the convention. As part of the case, protest groups are asking for a permit that would allow marches to snake along the Xcel Energy Center. Not only would their route be logistically impractical – by creating a logjam of protestors, pedestrians and motorists – but it would also seriously strain security and traffic personal.

St. Paul, however, has failed to show an appropriate purpose in rejecting the protest groups’ request to march from 2 to 6 p.m. Stopping the marches before the convention begins is comparative to preventing anti-abortion protests from convening during an abortion clinic’s hours. Security and traffic concerns, moreover, will no doubt be as problematic just before the convention as they will during the convention. Extending the marches would also allow adequate time frame for the estimated 50,000 protesters to move back to the State Capitol.

The current permit is in part practical given the logistics of such a huge event. However, voices still need to be heard – and St. Paul should change the time frame to ensure that happens.