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High court won't hear casino's bid to bar sidewalk protests

By The Associated Press


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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court turned away an appeal today from a Las Vegas strip casino that wanted to ban union protests from the front sidewalk.

The court did not comment in declining to hear the case filed by the Venetian Casino, which claims the sidewalk is private property. The case presented a novel free-speech question about when private property is open to public use.

The casino built the sidewalk to replace an ordinary public sidewalk lost when the state widened the strip in the 1990s.

The dispute arose from a 1999 union rally to protest the lack of a kitchen workers' contract, among other things. The protest spilled onto the disputed 10-foot-wide stretch of sidewalk, despite signs warning it was private property.

The casino called police, who refused to make any arrests.

The Venetian sued the county and two unions in federal court. The casino sought a designation that the sidewalk was indeed private property, even though it was open to the public, and backing for its view that it can keep unions from demonstrating there.

The casino lost two rounds in federal court and appealed to the Supreme Court.

The high court has repeatedly recognized the right to hold protests in public places. The same rights do not extend to private property, except under special circumstances.

The court has held, for example, that protesters can use the private property of a "company town," where there may be no truly public alternative.

The case is Venetian Casino Resort v. Local Joint Executive Board of Las Vegas.


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