Westlake Park Mug.jpg
City of Seattle
The ACLU of Washington this morning announced that it has joined a lawsuit originally filed by Real Change - the nonprofit homeless


ACLU of Washington Joins in Real Change Lawsuit Challenging Seattle Protest Restrictions

Westlake Park Mug.jpg
City of Seattle
The ACLU of Washington this morning announced that it has joined a lawsuit originally filed by Real Change - the nonprofit homeless advocacy group - challenging City of Seattle restrictions on protest activities in city parks.

As you may recall, the suit was sparked by an April protest in Westlake Park in which Real Change sought (and eventually, with the help of a federal court order, did) hold a sleep-out to help raise awareness of issues surrounding homelessness. Real Change, now with the help of the ACLU, contends restrictions Seattle places on the permitting of protests are unconstitutional.

As the press release notes:

In April 2012, plaintiff Tim Harris, as a representative for Real Change, applied for a permit from Seattle's Department of Parks and Recreation to engage in a 24- hour sleep-out protest at Westlake Park. The event was part of a campaign named Occupy the Committee to End Homeless in King County (Occupy CEHKC), which seeks to mobilize Seattle's homeless population and to raise public awareness about homelessness. Organizers identified a sleep-out at the site as a powerful way to critique the City of Seattle's concerted effort over the past 15 years to "sanitize" the downtown business core.

The City denied the permit application and informed Harris that granting a permit would be subject to several conditions, including a curfew from 10:00 pm until 6:00 am. Event organizers applied "under protest" for a permit that complied with the required conditions, paid the application fee, and then sought Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Preliminary Injunction in federal district court (Real Change, et al v. City of Seattle, et al.) The court granted the TRO enjoining the City from enforcing camping restrictions in Seattle's Municipal Code during the protest. The organizers held the 24-hour sleep-out as planned on April 24-25.

In joining the Real Change litigation, the ACLU seeks to ensure the Seattle Parks and Recreation permitting process comports with the First Amendment. All speakers, regardless of their message, need to be treated equally when they apply for permits.

"Real Change's sleep-in included distributing handbills, displaying protest signs, and presenting speeches on homelessness. These are clearly free speech activities protected by our Constitution, yet officials tried to restrict them," said ACLU-WA legal director Sarah Dunne in the distributed release. "The City's current park permitting law gives officials too much arbitrary discretion in granting or denying applications. It needs to be changed to meet constitutional standards."

I've got emails out to City of Seattle Parks and Recreation seeking comment, though that seems somewhat unlikely given the fact the matter concerns an ongoing court case. I will update this post accordingly should I receive a response.

Previously on The Daily Weekly:

Representatives from Mariners and Sodo Maritime Businesses Crap All Over Revised Arena MOU

Donald Fuller Says Complaining to Seattle's OPA About Police Abuse Got Him Charged with Two Crimes

City Announces Proposal For New Medical Pot Regulations, and Not Everyone Is Happy

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