San Diego County Supervisors Delay Vote on Free Speech Zones

San Diego County supervisors have delayed a vote on the creation of so-called “free speech zones” outside the County Administration Center which has raised concerns on the part of residents and civil liberties groups alike.

Under the proposal, permits would be required for large groups of 200 or more involved in political activities or protests at the Center’s Waterfront Park. They would also be required to carry out their activities in one of several designated locations. While other county parks have similar zones, permits are not required to carry out political activities. And, in that respect, the proposed ordinance goes too far, according to representatives for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

“It’s obviously an important location to have free speech rights because it’s obviously the heart of county government,” said David Loy, the ACLU’s legal director. His group worries that the permitting process would be too vague and cumbersome, placing unfair and unreasonable conditions upon those who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights.

The County Board of Supervisors decided to take more time to review the proposal before moving forward with a vote Tuesday. The decision followed a discussion which was briefly interrupted by a false fire alarm set off in the County Administration Building.

Supervisor Dianne Jacobs expressed skepticism over the proposal, saying any free speech rules should apply equally to all county parks. She also suggested that groups should be required to obtain a special events permit, instead of creating a new permit for Free Speech activities.

The supervisors are expected to revisit the issue on July 21.

Read more about the proposal here.


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