Street festival organizers have filed a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis because of a local ordinance that gives Major League Baseball (MLB) legal authority to approve activities in areas of the city for 15 days before, during and after the July 15 MLB All-Star game at Target Field.
Minneapolis passed an ordinance in February that creates a so-called "Clean Zone" where permits or event licenses won't be issued between July 5 and July 20 without approval from MLB "to prevent ambush marketing activity and other activities with the potential to distract from the event."
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the "One Day in July Street Festival" organizers who want to put on their event July 19, but don't want MLB making decisions about permits.
"It is an insult to me, and to all Americans, that before exercising my First Amendment right to speak and assemble I must first get permission from a private company," festival organizer Jim McGuire said in a statement, noted the Associated Press.
Minneapolis officials claim it is perfectly normal for the city to give up its legal authority to outside organizations such as the GOP (for their convention in 2008) and the NFL (during the Super Bowl).
"We will not and would not violate free speech rights, regardless of the presence of the All-Star game or any other national event occurring in our city," Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said in a statement.
ACLU-MN Executive Director Chuck Samuelson told City Pages, "All we're saying is you can't give away your permit process to a for-profit company. It belongs in the hands of elected officials and they can't give it away. This is a quintessential government role and the First Amendment doesn't give private companies the power to decide who can assemble, where they can assemble, and what they can say."
"That's not an option that's on the table, and for them to do it blindly and expect everyone is going to roll over is amazing," added Samuelson.
Sources: City Pages and Associated Press