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Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon listened during the city government committee meeting considering a proposal on demonstration permits. Gordon opposes mandatory permits for demonstrations. Protesters sat in on the meeting and held signs to express their views because the meeting was not a public hearing.

Joey McLeister, Star Tribune

City government panel opposes mandatory protest permits

  • March 19, 2008 - 11:13 PM

A proposal to require protest groups to apply for demonstration permits in Minneapolis ran into opposition Wednesday as city officials discussed how to prepare for the Republican National Convention in September.

About 20 protesters held up signs, opposing mandatory permits, during a meeting of a City Council work group on free speech issues and the convention. One option on the table was an ordinance revision, requiring protest groups to get a permit if more than 25 demonstrators were anticipated.

The working group voted against any mandatory requirement. Among those opposing the requirement was City Council Member Cam Gordon; Teresa Nelson, counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota; and Tina Smith, Mayor R.T. Rybak's chief of staff.

Rybak favors protest groups giving voluntary notification of demonstrations, Smith said. She said the city needs notification to make adequate plans, and said the mayor welcomes protesters who do not break the law.

While permits are required for parades, protesters in Minneapolis who use the sidewalks and don't block traffic do not need permits. St. Paul mandates demonstration permits.

Council Member Paul Ostrow, chairman of the working group, said he opposed a mandatory rule. But he said he wanted to look at codes in Washington, D.C. Officials said the D.C. codes may require permits under some circumstances but not in others.

The working group voted to explore a voluntary approach, with consideration of the Washington D.C. codes. It could lead to a council resolution or ordinance revision.

As the discussion wore on, protesters grew frustrated and began displaying small signs. "Stop trampling on free speech," read one.

RANDY FURST

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