Story and photos by Ron Logan
November 9, 2011 (San Diego) – Free-speech attorney Bryan Pease said yesterday at a press conference at the Civic Center Plaza that he plans to file a restraining order against the City of San Diego for unfairly violating the occupation's right to free speech.
"What the police have done is set up water barricades around the entire Civic Center Plaza with just a very narrow entrance," said Peace. "In order to come in you have to walk through, and be flanked by, police officers who, if they choose to at particular times with respect to particular individuals, will inform you that you cannot set down signs, bags, purses, etc, any object."
The action is based on a local San Diego Municipal Code ordinance, Section 54.0110, which makes it illegal to put down any object on any public property, whatsoever, he noted. "So it can be completely arbitrarily enforced, it is extremely overbroad,” he said, calling the rule unenforceable. “Since it applies to everything, they use it arbitrarily to curtail free speech…to keep people out of the plaza…It is the quintessential public forum right here, Civic Center Plaza.”
e added, “This is where people have been gathering and should be gathering to express their free speech rights. They should not be told that they can't set down a sign or a bag or a purse or any other object that they have."
Pease plans to file a temporary restraining order later this week in hopes to either strike down the ordinance as unconstitutional or to keep it from being used this way to limit free speech.
When asked by media if Occupy San Diego has tried to obtain a permit, Pease said that there is no formal way to request a permit based on this ordinance.
"We've been up to City Council for, this is our fourth week now," explained protestor John Kenney. "We have a letter of understanding from the City of Irvine, and we have crafted our own. We've given [the Council] resolutions, we've given them proposals, and they continue to just willfully ignore us. Last week I was at City Council on Tuesday, and the very next day I was targeted by police and given a citation for "illegal use of the horn" for honking my horn for three seconds in support of our brothers from labor who were marching on Wells Fargo."
He added, "The very moment this was happening, as I was surrounded by three police [officers] on CHiPs motorcycles, [San Diego City Council President] Tony Young was speaking on NPR saying he supported our right to free speech – but nobody will give us a permit or any letter of understanding or any way whatsoever to occupy this space … We are peaceful protestors, not terrorists."
Pease is currently in the process of obtaining declarations from protestors stating that they were told by police they could not set down their belongings. He plans to file papers for a court order on Friday.
SAN DIEGO MUNICIPAL CODE
§ 54.0110 Unauthorized Enchroachments Prohibited
It is unlawful for any person to erect, place, allow to remain, construct, establish, plant, or maintain any vegetation or object on any public street, alley, sidewalk, highway, or other public property or public right-of-way, except as otherwise provided by this Code.