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Cincinnati bars events, displays in downtown square during holidays

By The Associated Press

04.19.02

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CINCINNATI — The City Council has adopted an ordinance that will prevent the Ku Klux Klan or any other group except the city from holding events or erecting displays on the downtown square during the Christmas season.

In most years since 1992, Klan groups have tried to erect a cross on Fountain Square in Cincinnati during the holidays, drawing protests from blacks and other residents.

The council approved the new rules April 17 in a 9-0 vote. Council members created a new category of use for the square, giving the city "exclusive government use" from mid-November until early January.

City officials have tried to prevent Klan groups from putting displays on the square, but a federal judge in 1993 granted an injunction against the city's attempts to ban the group.

City officials said the Klan had nothing to do with the ordinance, and that it was intended to encourage economic development by keeping the square uncluttered during the busiest retail season of the year.

"One of the things we're trying to do is portray this as a management tool rather than something that's aimed at any particular group," Mayor Charlie Luken said.

Luken said he is sure opponents will try to say the city had other motives, adding that he wouldn't be surprised if the ordinance is challenged in court. Scott Greenwood, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed that a lawsuit seems likely.

"The shame of this — and I have to use the word shame — is that by legislating in this area, all City Council is doing is inviting another constitutional challenge," Greenwood said.

Update

Jewish groups challenge Cincinnati's holiday rules for plaza
Ordinance bans anyone but the city from holding events or erecting displays at downtown's Fountain Square during the holiday season.  11.14.02

Related

Klan's cross returns to Cincinnati square
CINCINNATI -- A Ku Klux Klan-sponsored cross was back on downtown's Fountain Square for the holiday season yesterday, but passers-by largely ignored the 10-foot-tall wooden symbol.  12.02.98

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