PRESS RELEASE from City of Charlotte

Friday, April 20, 2012

Robert Hagemann, City Attorney
Danny Diehl, County Public Information

City and County Plan for Free Speech Activities During DNC 

Today the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County clarified plans for respecting and accommodating citizens’ and visitors’ First Amendment right to free speech and peaceable assembly during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) scheduled September 4-6, 2012.

The US Supreme Court has characterized public streets, sidewalks, and parks as "traditional public forum." The use of traditional public forum property is not, however, free from all government regulation. Specifically, reasonable time, place, and manner regulations may be applied so long as they are content-neutral, narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and leave reasonable alternative avenues of communication. For example, one does not have a constitutional right to march through the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets during the Monday morning rush hour. Instead, the City may restrict such a demonstration to other times or locations that are not disruptive to the necessary flow of rush hour traffic.

Under current City ordinances, individuals and groups may demonstrate on City sidewalks at any time anywhere within the City, without a permit. Except on sidewalks that may be closed for security, transportation, or logistical reasons, individuals and groups will be allowed to demonstrate on City sidewalks during the DNC, as they are today, without a permit. Similarly, County parks will be available for individuals and groups to demonstrate during the DNC without a permit. These properties will not be subject to reservation by anyone, including the DNC Committee and Host Committee; instead, they will be open to anyone and everyone, for peaceable assembly and expressive activity.

With regard to parades and marches in the streets, and consistent with the practice in previous convention cities, the City will establish a parade route during the DNC. The City will also establish a "speakers’ platform," a location where City-provided microphones and amplification equipment will be provided to individuals and groups wishing to express their opinions. The City is developing an online application process for time slots for parades and access to the speakers’ platform. A random lottery will be used to allocate times. The online application process as well as parade route and speakers’ platform locations will be announced in early June and accessible at Applications will be taken for one month and the lottery will be held in early-July.

Again, it is important to note that the parade route and speakers’ platform are not the only locations where individuals and groups may exercise their First Amendment rights. Sidewalks and parks, unless closed for security or logistical reasons, will be open and available to everyone for expressive activity.

The City and County have two goals: (1) to respect and protect the First Amendment rights of our citizens and visitors; and (2) to preserve the peace, provide public safety, and ensure an enjoyable convention experience for all.