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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Lawyers Guild Challenges Tampa City Council

TAMPA (CN) - The National Lawyers Guild told the Tampa City Council this week that its proposed ordinance to regulate crowds at the Republican National Convention is unconstitutional.

The ordinance bans umbrellas, hoods, and pieces of string longer than 6 inches, among other things.

The National Lawyers Guild said in a statement: "The proposed ordinance creates arbitrary permit requirements, establishes what it calls a 'Clean Zone,' and lays out a militaristic view of crowd control. Taken together, its provisions set the stage for violent police action against peaceful protesters and bystanders."

In comments to the Tampa City Council, The Guild wrote, "If the City Council passes this ordinance regulating activities related to the 2012 Republican National Convention, it will find itself on the wrong side of the Constitution and the NLG will join with other civil liberties organizations to defend the civil rights of demonstrators to protest against unconstitutional government and police practices."

It added: "In case after case, the NLG has documented problems resulting from aggressive policing of peaceful mass assemblies, supported by ill-informed local governments. History has shown us that special ordinances passed in anticipation of National Special Security Events such as the RNC are not only often unconstitutional, but have also repeatedly failed to enhance public safety.

"The vast majority of any violence seen at demonstrations in the United States is not carried out or caused by demonstrators, rather it is undertaken by police who are trained to see protesters as inherently criminal, and are then deployed with so-called less-lethal weaponry and the power of false arrest. We hope that the City of Tampa will take seriously our observation that police overreaction and the curtailment of First Amendment activities run directly counter to the safety and rights of event participants. The militarization of these events in the past has resulted in the costly and violent curtailing of free speech and has been detrimental on a number of fronts, from huge costs during hard economic times to the tarnishing of host cities' reputations."

The law, which will be enforced only during the convention, include a citywide ban on "any container or inflatable device filled with urine, fecal matter, blood or any other bodily fluid," "rope, chain, cable, strapping, wire, string, line, tape or any material of a similar nature, having tensile strength greater than thirty (30) pounds and a length greater than six (6) inches," water guns, and umbrellas.

Tampa is hosting the 2012 Republican National Convention from Aug. 27-30.

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