The St. Paul City Council rejected an appeal of a parade permit issued for the opening day of the Republican National Convention this afternoon. By a 6-1 vote, the council endorsed the route drafted by the St. Paul Police Department.
Representatives of the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War argued that the planned route is logistically infeasible and potentially dangerous. “We feel like the permit issued by the police is either idealistic or naive,” Meredith Aby told the council, noting that they are expecting 50,000 protesters.
Last week the Police Department announced that the Sept. 1 parade would be allowed to proceed from the Capitol down Cedar Street, across 7th Street toward the Xcel Energy Center, and conclude at a triangle of streets adjacent to the convention location. Protest organizers fear that the tight confines of the parade’s terminus will create a dangerous bottleneck and result in potential altercations with police officers.
Attorneys for the protest group also argued that requiring the parade to pass by the Xcel center no later than 2 p.m. will not allow them to communicate their message to convention delegates and that it circumvents their First Amendment rights. “The alternative permit issued by the St. Paul police really puts the coalition within sight and sound of an empty building,” said Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “The right to march, to demonstrate at a political convention, is not an afterthought.”
City Council members were largely unmoved by their arguments. Only Dave Thune deemed the concerns about safety and time constraints significant enough to support the group’s appeal.
The City Council’s decision likely means the dispute is headed back to court. “My guess is we’re going to proceed with the lawsuit that’s currently pending in federal court,” Nestor said after the hearing.