The city of Cleveland has put in place very strict rules governing what the public can do during the Republican convention starting July 18. The rules are so restrictive that the Ohio chapter of the ACLU has sued the city in federal court saying that such rules infringe on the free speech and other rights of the public, including the homeless who just happen to live in the 3.3 square mile area designated as the Event Zone. They are suing on behalf of three organizations: Citizens for Trump, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, and Organize Ohio. (The lawsuit can be read here.)
In its press release, the ACLU states that the rules are “arbitrary, unnecessary, and unjustifiable”.
The lawsuit seeks to reduce the size and regulations of the Event Zone, an area covering 3.3 square miles in downtown Cleveland where people will be subject to broad restrictions on their conduct and objects in their possession. The ACLU contends that these provisions will have especially acute effect on individuals who are homeless living within this area.
“The size of the event zone and absurdly broad list of contraband items infringe on the movement and privacy of everyone living or working in downtown Cleveland,” [executive director for the ACLU of Ohio Christine] Link said. “These rules criminalize everyone from people who are homeless to grocery shoppers for carrying everyday items. They also provide opportunities for public speech that are completely inadequate for the size and importance of this event.”
The absurd state of affairs that currently exist in the US is illustrated by what is allowed and not allowed within the restricted zone. Guns are allowed but not tennis balls, for example.
The rules also include a list of banned items, such as tennis balls and canned food but not guns. The lawsuit decries the “Regulations’ draconian reach,” and explains how the list of prohibited items would affect the city’s homeless population:
Regulations prohibit the possession of items that are essential to and often carried by homeless people every day, items as basic as string, rope, tape, coolers, large backpacks, and tents, among other things. By designating many of their basic, everyday necessities as contraband, and drawing an unreasonably wide zone for enforcement, the City is subjecting its homeless residents to unnecessary encounters with the police, and interfering with their rights to liberty, privacy and movement.
A university, dormitories, homes, and grocery stores are in the zone as well.
The Regulations, however, prohibit shoppers from carrying cans, canned goods, bottles, and aerosol cans out of a store. University tennis courts are located in the Event Zone, but tennis balls are “prohibited” in the zone. The absurd reach of the Regulations over everyday items goes on and on.
Given the recent massacre in Orlando, one might be puzzled as to why the most dangerous item is the one that is allowed. The reason for this ridiculous state of affairs is that city and other governments are allowed to regulate most of what can be brought into the zone except for guns because state law prohibits local jurisdictions from placing any restrictions on the right of god-fearing, gun-toting, real Merkins to carry their weapons anywhere they damn well please.
There will be an area that is smaller and encompasses the actual convention buildings that will be designated later by the Secret Service and they can override any other laws and it is very likely that they will forbid guns in that area. What their stance will be on string and tennis balls is unknown.
We live in a topsy-turvy world.