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Occupy Sacramento to protest proposed law restricting use of City Hall property

A law targeting Occupy Sacramento’s use of City Hall property is likely to stir debate when it goes the City Council on Tuesday.

The initial version of the law drew thinly veiled legal threats from the ACLU and would have required protesters using City Hall property to obtain permits. The new version removes that requirement while adding new restrictions, including a curfew prohibiting protesters from being on the property from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Also banned: sponge bathing in the fountain at Cesar Chavez Plaza.

Cres Velluci with the Sacramento County ACLU wasn’t satisfied with the revisions, however, writing in a blog post that the new ordinance has "very restrictive portions" including the curfew and a proposed buffer area around the entrances.

Occupy Sacramento plans to hold a protest potluck (which the group says would be illegal under the new law) in front of City Hall at 4:30 p.m and will hold a news conference at 5 p.m., according to a press release.

The ordinance will be discussed at the 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday at City Hall, 915 I St.

Ordinance: Use of the City Hall Facility

The full press release from Occupy Sacramento:

"SACRAMENTO – Community representatives, including members of veterans groups, Occupy and the ACLU, said they will rally against a controversial measure to be considered Tuesday (9/11/12) by the Sacramento City Council that would limit and restrict free speech rights at City Hall – including an outright ban on any free speech activity after 11 p.m.

Occupy Sacramento plans to hold a potluck – illegal under the new law if passed – in front of City Hall at 4:30 p.m. There will be a news conference at 5 p.m. The Council meets at 6 p.m.

The City Council Law & Legislation Committee approved the language Aug. 9, after making changes suggested by the ACLU of Northern California, including provisions to allow unpermitted protests. Previous versions of the ordinance did not allow demonstrations without a permit.

In a letter to the committee, the ACLU/NC said the proposal "contains numerous unconstitutional burdens on speech… The prior version of the ordinance would have imposed an unconstitutional prior restraint on political speech through its onerous permitting requirement. The current version of the ordinance no longer contains that particular defect, but still imposes unnecessary and unconstitutional  burdens on speech.  We therefore urge you to oppose it."

Among the still objectionable parts of the revised ordinance are curfew restrictions – free speech would be made illegal after 11 p.m. at night until 7 a.m. Currently, constitutionally-protected events can take place on City Hall property for 24 hours a day.

The proposed ordinance will also restrict and criminalize other protest activities on  City Hall property, including protesting too close to the building, sharing food and "harming" the lawn by walking on it.

Among the very restrictive portions, in addition to the curfew prohibiting free speech after 11 p.m. are (1) a buffer area around entrances, preventing peaceful demonstrations too near City Hall;  (b) a host of other restrictive rules, including  making it illegal to give food to someone, or making it a crime to sit around the fountain, or prohibiting tables to display free speech materials any closer than about 50-75 feet from the building (essentially not in the plaza but the outside sidewalks). And, those with resources to pay for a permit, insurance and security will take precedence over those without the financial wherewithal. Some demonstrators will be more equal than others."



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