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Center for Constitutional Rights Files Lawsuit Challenging City’s Policy of Prohibiting Political Marches Along Fifth Avenue

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New Yorkers Have a Right to Voice Their Opinions on Manhattan’s Main Street

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a complaint on behalf of the International Action Center and the Troops Out Now Coalition on Wednesday March 16 challenging the City’s policy of refusing new permits for marches on Fifth Avenue. CCR called for a reversal of the policy and for the City to allow the march this weekend to proceed on Fifth Avenue, arguing that the City is silencing dissent by refusing permits for demonstrations on Fifth Avenue.

Fifth Avenue in Manhattan has long been a historic stage for marches and demonstrations. Every year the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Salute to Israel Day Parade and many others are allowed to march on Fifth Avenue. In 2001, the city passed a rule forbidding the granting of new permits to anyone for marches or parades on Fifth Avenue who did not already hold such a permit. This amendment effectively prohibits political marches which, by their very nature, are in reaction to current events and are not annual affairs. By de facto barring political demonstrations, the policy infringes on the rights of New Yorkers to protest during these serious political times.

According to CCR Legal Director Jeffrey Fogel, “like the Great Lawn, our ‘town square,’ Fifth Avenue is the route most associated historically with protest marches. Its withdrawal is a blow to the First Amendment.”

Larry Holmes, co-director of the Troops Out Now Coalition, said, “If we are not allowed to have an antiwar march on Fifth Avenue during a time of war, then this is a very serious problem that affects everyone. Troops Out Now supports and thanks CCR for making a legal challenge to the Mayor’s ban on protest marches on Fifth Avenue, and we hope everyone will join us Saturday, March 19, in Harlem and in Central Park, and at Mayor Bloomberg’s townhouse to say, ‘feed our communities, not war, bring the troops home now.’”

Since the Giuliani Administration, the City of New York has restricted the right to peaceably assemble and march. Just as Giuliani sought to prevent the Million Youth March in the late 1990's, the Bloomberg administration has prohibited marches on First Avenue and rallies in Central Park and has imposed other severe limitations on the First Amendment rights of New York’s citizens. At issue in this case is a throwback to the Giuliani administration, a rule that prohibits most political marches anywhere on Fifth Avenue. CCR and plaintiffs see no justification for a rule that only allows cultural parades that have been taking place since before 2001 on Fifth Avenue. They believe in ensuring that visible and vibrant public demonstrations continue to be a part of life in New York City.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.