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Court Refuses to Reinstate Ordinance on Crowd Control for Parades

April 21, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today refused to reinstate an Orlando, Fla., ordinance that forced groups sponsoring parades or public rallies to pay the full cost of providing traffic and crowd control by police.

The justices, without comment, let stand a federal appeals court ruling that the ordinance violates free-speech rights.

The dispute over the Orlando ordinance began when, in 1983, the Central Florida Nuclear Freeze Campaign applied for a city permit to conduct a parade and rally.

The group’s application said the nine-hour rally at Tinker Field, a city recreation area, would attract about 1,000 participants and that some 800 people would march in a four-mile parade through city streets to the area.

A city ordinance required the chief of police, before issuing such a permit, to determine whether additional police protection would be necessary and have the applicant pre-pay the cost of that additional protection.

No permit was required for groups meeting indoors, for events in which fewer than 100 people participated in a single location, or for larger groups who marched on city sidewalks in a way that did not block or obstruct pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

The nuclear freeze group’s application was approved on the condition it pay $1,435 for police services.

The group paid the permit fee after the city agreed to hold the money in escrow until the ordinance could be challenged in court.

A federal trial judge upheld the ordinance, relying heavily on a 1941 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld a New Hampshire law requiring people who used public streets for events to pay the costs of providing police protection.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Orlando ordinance last Nov. 4.

The appeals court interpreted the 1941 decision ″as authorizing only nominal charges for the use of city streets and parks to further First Amendment activities.″

The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech.

The appeals court also faulted the Orlando ordinance for not distinguishing between public advocacy, such as the nuclear freeze group rally, and comercial speech, such as a circus parade.

In seeking Supreme Court review, Orlando officials argued, ″Local governments should not be forced into bearing the costs of expensive police services required for every group that wishes to cloak itself under the rubric of free speech and disrupt the ordinary use of public thoroughfares.″

The appeal acted on today added that ″taxpayers must not be required to foot the bill″ for such events.

Lawyers for the nuclear freeze group told the court that demonstrators should not be forced to pay for protection from hostile counter activity.

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