Boston Officials Allow More Leeway in Christian Demonstrations During Democratic Convention

( [email protected] ) Jun 03, 2004 05:54 PM EDT

The Christian Defense Coalition reached a settlement with Boston officials after filing a lawsuit against the city for their unconstitutional restrictions on free speech during the Democratic National Convention this July. The city has agreed to streamline the process in applying for demonstration permits and made provisions for “spontaneous protests.”

"We're thankful that the city of Boston recognized there were unconstitutional provisions in their permit process, but it's very disappointing that individual citizens had to file a federal lawsuit to ensure that the First Amendment was protected during the Democratic National Convention," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition.

The lawsuit was filed by the coalition, Operation Rescue Boston and Operation Rescue West against the city of Boston and Mayor Thomas Menino.

Before the settlement, the city imposed a new three-step application process for demonstration permits during the convention. Since the applications had to be submitted 14 days before the demonstration, protesters said the process would not allow for demonstrating at events they heard about just before or during the convention, which runs from July 26-29.

As of Tuesday, the settlement allows activist groups consisting of 20-50 demonstrators to apply for permits in a shorter amount of time. Groups over 50 should receive responses to their permit applications within two business days, according to Brian Chavez-Ochoa, an attorney for the coalition.

CDC also plans to hold prayer vigils during the Republic National Convention in New York City and will apply this week for a permit to surround Madison Square Garden on August 28, according to Mahoney. The coalition also wants to assemble for prayer at the World Trade Center site the next day.

During a news conference at Madison Square Tuesday, Mahoney discussed how demonstration restrictions in the New York City during the convention infringes on free speech and civil liberties.

"I am very concerned that the City of New York is crushing civil liberties and free speech during the Republican National Convention. If we feel New York City is unconstitutionally restricting the First Amendment, we will seek to obtain a federal injunction against them just as we did with the City of Boston. Free speech should be celebrated during the RNC, not crushed,” said in a statement.