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Anti-war protesters again lose bid to hold march near U.N.

By The Associated Press

02.13.03

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NEW YORK — A federal appeals court agreed yesterday that the city is not violating the First Amendment by banning anti-war demonstrators from marching near the United Nations this weekend.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it could find no errors in a lower court judge's ruling earlier this week, which found the city had acted legally when it issued a permit for a stationary rally for 100,000 people or more on Feb. 15 but disallowed a march.

Organizers of the rally and their lawyers called the decision disappointing.

"This is a stunning blow to democracy, to the liberties we all thought we could rely on, even in times of hostility," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case to federal court last week.

She called the ruling "an attack on the very values our country was built on and is supposed to be defending."

U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones heard testimony and arguments on Feb. 7 before concluding that the city's response was appropriate in "this time of heightened security," especially since the protest organizers gave the city little time to prepare.

The ruling resulted from a lawsuit brought by United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of anti-war groups sponsoring rallies throughout the world.

Yesterday, the appeals court panel listened to oral arguments from both sides before taking a brief break. Judge Jose A. Cabranes then delivered the ruling orally on behalf of the panel.

He noted that the court upheld the lower court ruling only in regard to the Feb. 15 protest and said it should not be taken to mean that it would be constitutional for the city to ban protest marches in all cases.

He also said the court case and Jones' ruling were not as unusual or unprecedented as some had suggested.

"In New York City, our courts are provided a steady diet of cases involving parade permits and the limitations that may or may not be imposed upon them," Cabranes said. "We are ever mindful of our role in the preservation of our system of ordered liberty, especially in times of war."

City attorney Scott Shorr said the police department has refused to let protest marchers pass the United Nations since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but the policy had not been put in writing.

Another city lawyer, Jeffrey D. Friedlander, said in a release that the Feb. 15 rally will let participants exercise First Amendment rights without putting public safety at risk.

Related

Marches at a standstill: the new limits on assembly
By Ken Paulson Though cities have right to some controls over protests, they've taken to routinely curtailing them.  02.23.03

Federal judge blocks anti-war march near U.N.
Citing 'this time of heightened security,' court finds NYC's need to protect public outweighs protesters' rights to march.  02.11.03

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