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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
February 10, 2003
Judge Blocks Anti - War March Past U.N.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 6:20 p.m. ET
NEW YORK (AP) -- Citing safety concerns in ``this time of heightened security,'' a federal judge Monday upheld the city's refusal to allow anti-war demonstrators to march past the United Nations on Saturday.
U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones said the demonstrators' First Amendment rights were not violated by the city's decision to confine the protest to a plaza near the U.N. complex.
``The city's restriction on marching is not a restriction on pure speech, but rather a restriction on the manner in which plaintiff may communicate its message,'' Jones wrote.
The protest is being organized by United for Peace and Justice, a coalition that is sponsoring rallies throughout the world on Saturday.
The coalition filed an appeal Monday in federal court, where the case is expected to be heard Tuesday or Wednesday, said Chris Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union.
``We are outraged that Judge Jones did not see fit to uphold our fundamental constitutional right of the people to engage in peaceful marches. It is yet another example of the damage that is being done to our constitutional democracy in a post 9-11 environment,'' said Leslie Cagan, a leader of the coalition.
In her ruling, Jones noted that the United Nations was ``uniquely sensitive among locations in New York City because of its function, our country's treaty obligations and its history as a terrorist target.''
She said that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the city has banned all demonstrations, parades or other public events in front of the United Nations.
``This policy is all inclusive, makes no reference to the content of the regulated speech and does not distinguish between event organizers or their views,'' she said.
Jones also agreed with the city's argument that the march is expected to be too large for the police department to secure the landmark.
Saying that police concerns about security threats were ``far from theoretical,'' the judge noted that the United Nations was among five landmarks targeted by terrorists in a failed plot in 1993. A dozen men were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms.
Dunn, of the New York Civil Liberties Union, had argued that the city was using ``a theoretical possibility something terrible is going to happen to cancel the right of people to participate in peaceful protest.''
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is scheduled to speak at the rally, said he was puzzled by the city's action.
``I really cannot believe that a major city in the leading democracy in the world can refuse people this particular right,'' he said.
last updated: 02.11.2003