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Federal Lawsuit Against New York City Authorities


National Council of Arab Americans and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition to Litigate Right to Demonstrate in Central Park During the Republican National Convention

New York--Attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild and the Partnership for Civil Justice are filing a free speech lawsuit in New York City this week on behalf of the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) in defense of the First Amendment and constitutional rights.

In January 2004, the NCA filed a permit application for a mass demonstration on the Great Lawn in Central Park for August 28, the 41st anniversary of the historic civil rights March on Washington in 1963. The purpose of the event is to rally in defense of civil rights and civil liberties particularly for the Arab American and Muslim communities. Thousands of Arab Americans and Muslims in the United States have had their rights routinely violated by the Bush-Ashcroft administration, which has used the events of September 11 to implement a system of unconstitutional racial and religious profiling.

The permit was denied. In response, the NCA and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition are filing a lawsuit in the Federal District Court in New York City to support the right of assembly on the Great Lawn in Central Park for all those who are expressing political opposition to the domestic and foreign policies of the Bush administration in the days before and during the Republican National Convention. "Law enforcement in the City of New York wants to abrogate the use of parks as traditional fora for free speech and assembly, a right that the people will not give up," stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, counsel for the plaintiffs. "This suit is being filed for all the people of New York and all those who are coming to this city to stand together and show the world the strength of the opposition to the Bush Administration's war drive abroad and repression at home."

In addition to seeking to overturn the permit denial, the lawsuit seeks to constrain the unbridled discretion of the city, which has threatened to penalize those who express differing political speech in Central Park. Attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee are filing the suit.

The Mass Defense Committee of the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has been organizing for months to provide legal observers and legal defense at the Republican National Convention.

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, comprises over 6,000 members and activists in the service of the people. Its national office is headquartered in New York and it has chapters in nearly every state, as well as over 100 law school chapters. The Partnership for Civil Justice, also litigating on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee, has brought multiple constitutional rights actions against federal and local law enforcement authorities for violations of the free speech rights of activists and political organizations. These lawsuits include five in the District of Columbia, including two class actions for mass false arrests, and litigation in New York, Philadelphia and most recently, a class action filed in Miami for government repression of last fall's anti-FTAA demonstrations.


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