ACLU blasts Mpls Council for approving speech-limiting "Clean Zone" during All-Star Game
Today, the Minneapolis City Council approved the MLB's request to create a potentially speech-limiting "Clean Zone" across a swath of the city during a two week stretch surrounding the 2014 All-Star Game.
The city's decision to temporarily cede some regulatory power to the MLB didn't set well with the Minnesota ACLU, which characterized it as placing "our free speech rights... in the hands of a private corporation."
"The MLB, as a requirement of hosting the All-Star Game, wants to control what goes on in a substantial part of downtown Minneapolis, the U of M... a big chunk of the city," ACLU-MN Executive Director Chuck Samuelson told us. "We're not sure that the city can do that."
The resolution approved by council without discussion this morning is explained neatly in this passage from a city document:
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by The City Council of The City of Minneapolis:
That no temporary permit or license shall be approved or granted by the City Council which would permit the sale or free distribution of merchandise, peddling, transient merchant activities, product sampling, temporary food or beverage services, temporary beverage alcohol premise expansions, block events, parades, races, or permit the use of temporary structures, tents, signs, banners, mobile billboard vehicles, broadcast vehicles, amplified sound permits, temporary light displays, inflatable displays, or permit temporary entertainment venues to be operated during the time period of July 5, 2014 through July 20, 2014 on public or private property within the following geographical areas surrounding Target Field or other event venues without additional approval of Major League Baseball.
The Clean Zone would be enforced in "that part of the City of Minneapolis lying between the Mississippi River where it intersects with Interstate Highway 94, westerly along Interstate Highway 94 to Plymouth Avenue North, and easterly to the Mississippi River south to the point at Interstate Highway 94," the document says.
But in a letter sent to the city before today's vote, Samuelson argued that the Clean Zone "imposes a prior restraint on speech and would condition licenses and permits for constitutionally protected speech and expressive conduct on approval by MLB."
"By failing to tailor the proposed Clean Zone to ensure that it does not unconstitutionally restrict constitutionally-protected speech, the city would be opening itself up to legal liability for First Amendment violations," the ACLU letter continues.
During our conversation, Samuelson also questioned the need for the Clean Zone to be in place for more than two weeks when All-Star festivities only last a few days.
"Do they need that broad of a timeline on both sides of the game? That's our question," he said, adding that he isn't sure if All-Star cities have implemented similar Clean Zones in previous years.
We contacted a number of City Council members seeking comment, but none of them had yet gotten back to us as this is published.
To read the full text of both the resolution approved today by the city and Samuelson's letter, click to page two.
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