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Judge Finds No First Amendment Violation in Denied Permit for Occupy the Courts Rally

Posted Jan 20, 2012 8:12 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge in New York has upheld a decision by the General Services Administration to deny a permit for a protest today outside the federal courthouse on Pearl Street in New York City.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said the plaza outside the courthouse is not a public forum and there is no First Amendment violation, according to the New York Times and the New York Law Journal. Occupy the Courts protesters had sought the permit. They are staging demonstrations in 130 cities today to protest the Citizens United decision finding corporations have a First Amendment right to support political candidates, according to a press release.

The New York Times covered Kaplan’s comments at the court hearing on Thursday when he refused to issue an injunction to allow the protest. The plaza outside the courthouse “is as far from the soapboxes of Madison Square Park years ago as one could imagine,” he said.

The GSA had denied the New York permit because of concerns the protest would interfere with a planned citizenship ceremony and the installation of a new federal judge at the courthouse.

The group sponsoring the demonstrations, Move to Amend, is planning a protest in alternate locations in New York at Liberty Plaza and Foley Square. A permit was also denied for a protest in Bryson City, N.C.

The protests kick off a petition drive for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the Associated Press reports. The amendment would abolish corporate constitutional rights and declare that political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

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