Ruling could be trouble for “designated protest zones”
Protesters at Philadelphia’s Independence Mall will be able to make their case on the sidewalks, and not be confined to a designated section of the park. A federal appeals court ruled this week in favor of an anti-abortion activist who demonstrated in front of the Liberty Bell.
Civil rights attorneys say that ever since 9-11 the Parks Service has wanted to limit where activists can exercise their free speech rights.
Those attorneys are cheering a decision by the Third Circuit regarding an anti-abortion activist who was charged with a misdemeanor when he refused to move away from the Liberty Bell and take his message to a designated protest zone.
Paul Hetznecker is an attorney who has defended other protesters.
“The government says look we don’t have a problem with the content of your message but you gotta give your message over here or over there. And what this decision does is it reaffirms the longstanding position of the federal courts that the streets and public areas, public sidewalks and parks are open to free expression.”
Hetznecker says the ruling sends a message that in the future, designated protest zones may not be tolerated by the federal courts.