The ACLU of Washington just announced it is entering a lawsuit filed by homeless advocates against the City of Seattle, challenging the city's permitting process for holding protest public parks. The lawsuit arose after nonprofit homeless newspaper Real Change, was denied a permit to host an April sleep-out in Westlake Park to raise awareness about homelessness.
“The City’s current park permitting law gives officials too much arbitrary discretion in granting or denying applications. It needs to be changed to meet constitutional standards,” said ACLU-WA legal director Sarah Dunne.
...In joining the Real Change litigation, the ACLU seeks to ensure the Seattle Parks and Recreation permitting process comports with the First Amendment. All speakers, regardless of their message, need to be treated equally when they apply for permits. In an earlier lawsuit brought by the ACLU-WA on behalf of the October 22nd Coalition, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008 found that Seattle’s ordinance for granting permits for parades and marches was unconstitutional. The court agreed with the ACLU’s contention that the law gave police too much discretion to revoke or alter permits. Seattle subsequently revised its ordinance to comply with constitutional standards for freedom of speech. The ACLU has identified similar constitutional failings in the City of Seattle’s Parks and Recreation permitting process to those in the challenged parade permitting process.
When asked this morning whether the city should once again revisit its permitting policy, Mayor Mike McGinn, whispered this sweet nothing in my ear: "We got the message—if you want to put up a few tents overnight for symbolic purposes. We'll keep working with advocates and we'll listen to the court."