First Amendment

DC Circuit rejects free-speech challenge by group planning inauguration protests

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A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a First Amendment challenge by an anti-Trump group that wanted access to all of Freedom Plaza for protests during the inauguration.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a decision by the National park Service to allot space in Freedom Plaza to the Presidential Inauguration Committee, report BuzzFeed and (sub. req.). The committee plans to set up bleachers for ticketed seating during the inauguration parade.

A group called the ANSWER Coalition (short for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) had challenged the decision.

The D.C. Circuit said allotting the space to the committee was a content-neutral restriction and did not amount to viewpoint discrimination. Judge Nina Pillard wrote the opinion, which was joined by Judges Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Millett.

“There is no evidence in the record that the regulation was adopted because of any disagreement with ANSWER’s—or any demonstrators’—message, nor any evidence of desire generally to suppress dissent or otherwise discriminate with regard to content,” Pillard wrote.

The regulation governing space allotment gives 13 percent of the space on the parade route to the inaugural committee, including space for bleachers on Freedom Plaza. Seventy percent of the parade route is open to the public—including demonstrators—and 17 percent is for the media and other purposes.

The issue is whether there is ample space for expression by ANSWER at the inaugural parade, not whether there is enough room for expression at Freedom Plaza, the appeals court said.

The case is ANSWER Coalition v Basham.

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