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For week ended May 30, 1999 Posted 4 Jun 1999

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ACLU Intensifies Effort to Open Main Street Block to Protest

Summarized by Kent Larsen

ACLU Intensifies Effort to Open Main Street Block to Protest
Salt Lake Tribune 27May99 L1
By Brandon Loomis: Salt Lake Tribune

The ACLU is increasing its efforts to open the LDS Church's pedestrian plaza, currently under construction, to free speech, including the public's right to protest, speak or act in ways that offend the LDS Church. On Wednesday, May 26th, the ACLU rejected Salt Lake City's explanation for the behavior restrictions placed on its easement on the property, saying that the city can't sell the public's right to freedom of speech.

"It is ironic at best that the city would prohibit physical walls and fences but allow walls and fences around the public's constitutional rights,"wrote ACLU Legal Director Stephen Clark in a letter to City attorney Roger Culter. In the letter, Clark requested a meeting with city officials over the issue in order to avoid a lawsuit.

Cutler says he had not yet seen the letter, and remains unconvinced that the easement granted to the city by the LDS Church includes any constitutional violations. "They're going to have to convince me that what we did was not within constitutional restraint," said Cutler. He will not commit to meeting with the ACLU until he has been able to study the letter.

The city's position is that the LDS Church is a private property owner, and can restrict speech and actions on the property as it sees fit. "They didn't want it being used as a staging area for protests against them," Culter said. The ACLU claims, however, that courts have thrown out similar restrictions in other cities when the location is a natural location for public protest. It cites a Boston case where the city of Boston leased a public street to a restaurant serving veal. The street had been used for anti-veal protests.

Cutler claims that Main Street hasn't been used for protests. Unlike in Boston, its just another block. "We still have 540 miles of streets," he said.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information