ACLU calls “free speech zones” at St. Pete Pride parade 'unconstitutional'
This Saturday is the 5th Annual St. Pete Pride Promenade and Street Festival. But the City of St. Petersburg has a controversial ordinance regarding so-called “free speech zones” and event permit enforcement. Yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, sent a letter to St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker and Police Chief Charles Harmon calling for changes to this ordinance before the Pride festival. The Director of the West Central Florida Regional Office of the ACLU, Becky Steele, explains why her group thinks the ordinance should be changed.
Steele: Free speech cages – seeing this more and more
Steel said the purpose of the letter was to insure the free speech rights of everyone.
Steele: We wrote letter to express concern – violates everybody’s free speech rights.
Years ago the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston refused to allow gay pride groups to participate in their parade. The Supreme Court ruled that they had the right to control the message of their own event. Steel argues that this right is being violated by the St. Petersburg ordinance.
The ACLU’s Steel thinks that based on the current permit, there could potentially be many arrests this Saturday.
St. Petersburg City Attorney John Wolfe told WMNF that he was working on a revised permit for the Pride parade but it was not available today.
St. Pete Pride
Letter from ACLU to St. Pete
St. Pete City Attorney