ACLU Sues City Over DNC Protest Permit Denial

The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, Cheri Honkala’s group, has filed a lawsuit against the city over the denial of a protest march permit.

The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU announce their lawsuit against Philadelphia

From left: Elizabeth Ortiz, German Parobi, Cheri Honkla, Galen Tyler and Mary Catherine Roper. The ACLU and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign gathered on Thursday morning to announce a lawsuit against the City.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia today over the denial of a protest march permit on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, founded in 1998 by Cheri Honkala.

“This city closes down streets for block parties, for Cinco de Mayo, for food festivals — including during rush hour — but they will not give the protesters permission to use the streets during rush hour,” ACLU of Pennsylvania Deputy Legal Director Mary Catherine Roper said.

At a press conference today in South Philadelphia, Roper and Honkala outlined their grievance: The city, they say, has forbidden protest marches in Center City between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. during this summer’s DNC. Honkala’s group wants to march down Broad Street from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center at 3 p.m. on the opening day of the convention, July 25th.

“We’re the only folks so far that I know of that have been told we cannot march,” Honkala said.

Honkala, the Green Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, has been an advocate and protester in Philadelphia for decades now. Honkala marched with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, another group she founded, on the first day of the 2000 Republican National Convention. She declined to say if her group would plan to march if the lawsuit failed. “We don’t believe in failure,” she said. “Certainly, we believe in miracles. I’m sure the judge will rule in our favor.”

The city plans to let protesters set up in FDR Park for the duration of the DNC. But the ACLU says that is not enough.

“Let’s be frank: Most people are not going to be hanging out around FDR Park to watch the protests,” Roper said. “During the day, Philadelphians and people coming here for the convention are going to be in Center City… the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign represents part of the life of Philadelphia that should be visible during this convention week.”

The lawsuit says the city denied the permit because of a “previously scheduled, annual or otherwise regularly-held event or ceremony that is sponsored by or on behalf of the City.” The city says it needs to keep downtown clear during the convention; the lawsuit counters that most of the projected 500 marchers on July 25th would be out of Center City by 4 p.m. The ACLU says it will file a motion to expedite their lawsuit next week.

“They have us all looking over here, when something’s actually happening over there,” Honkala said. “The Democratic Party is full of professionals at the shell game. We are not going to fall for the shell game. You can’t hide the truth from people that are hungry. You can’t hide the truth from people that can’t get housing. You can’t hide the truth from people that are incarcerated. You can’t hide the truth from teachers that can’t get contracts. The list goes on.”

Honkala is also one of the activists behind a planned July 28th action called “Beans for Hillary” that’s being described as a “fart-in” and is aimed at disrupting Hillary Clinton’s expected acceptance speech.

A copy of the lawsuit is below.

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