Judge rules protest group cannot march through RNC security zone

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With just a week to go before the start of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, a federal judge has ruled that a protest group that sued the city will not be allowed to enter the “hard” security perimeter to complete its planned march.

The ruling is a setback for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Coalition to March on the RNC 2024, which filed a lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee last month, claiming the city’s protest plans for the RNC violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The members of the Coalition have a right to protest the RNC. Their right to do so lies at the heart of the First Amendment. But the First Amendment does not permit them to protest or parade in any manner they choose,” U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig wrote in his ruling.

Ludwig wrote that the defendants, including the city and the U.S. Secret Service, had demonstrated that they balanced the protesters’ right to express themselves with “legitimate security and other governmental interests.” He said most of the security plan was reasonable and constituted a valid restriction on free speech.

Parties have 48 hours to respond to the ruling and indicate whether they wish to continue the legal proceedings.

The ruling is the culmination of a months-long legal battle that the coalition had hoped would result in a court order allowing the group to march on a different route than the one designated by the city. Their planned route did not follow the official parade route and would have gone through the hard security perimeter where identification is required at Kilbourn Avenue and King Drive.

Coalition organizers rejected the city’s demonstration route, arguing that it was not within “sight and hearing” of Fiserv Forum, which they hoped to march past at noon on July 15. The city’s demonstration route will begin at Zeidler Union Square and will be close to the Baird Center, where media will be located.

Ludwig ruled in favor of the ACLU in one case, saying the city and Public Works Commissioner Jerrel Kruschke could not approve applications for speakers and demonstrations based on an applicant’s criminal history.

The Coalition to March Against the RNC plans to hold a press conference on Tuesday in response to the ruling.

Tristan Hernandez can be reached at [email protected].