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Court rules Milwaukee can restrict RNC protest routes

(NewsNation) — A federal judge has ruled against a protest group that sued the city of Milwaukee over demonstration restrictions at the Republican National Convention.

Under the ruling, the protest group cannot cross into city-designated security areas during next week’s convention, where thousands are expected to attend.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin sued the city in federal court last month, alleging that the city’s plans for demonstrations during the convention violate the constitutional protest rights of the group “Coalition to March on the RNC 2024.”

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In its complaint, the group said it applied for a parade permit over a year ago. The city never approved the request and instead passed an ordinance that limits demonstrators to an undisclosed parade route in a 90-square-block area around Fiserv Forum, which is a different part of the venue. 

“Protesters have a constitutional right to demonstrate within ‘sight and sound’ of an event they’re protesting, and these additional rules will render them unseen and unheard,” the ACLU said in a statement shortly after suing the city.

While Judge Brett Ludwig affirmed the group’s constitutional rights he clarified that they “do not have a First Amendment right to express themselves at all places and times of their choosing.”

“The record demonstrates Defendants’ extensive efforts to balance the Coalition members’ right to express themselves against the legitimate security and other governmental interests that Defendants have been charged with defending. The vast majority of the resulting security plan is a reasonable and valid time, place, and manner regulation on speech” he wrote in the ruling. 

Tim Muth, staff attorney for the ACLU of Wisconsin, said he was “disappointed” by the ruling in a statement Tuesday. 

“Regardless of this ruling, we still expect the City of Milwaukee to follow the Constitution and ensure that protesters can freely, thoroughly, and safely make their voices heard and peacefully protest without unnecessary interference from law enforcement,” he said. 

The group has 48 hours to respond to the ruling with whether they want to move forward with further litigation.