State Sen. Ferlo wants Point State Park designated free-speech zone for G-20The problem? (Besides, of course, the whole idea of "free speech zones.") Sen. Jim Ferlo never requested a permit for a "free speech zone" -- he did request a permit for an event to be held at Point State Park on September 23rd (the day before the G-20 Summit).
By Jeremy Boren, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, July 24, 2009
Sen. Jim Ferlo wants the city's permission to turn Point State Park into a free-speech zone for activists the day before the Group of 20 economic summit begins Downtown.
Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said Thursday he wants a permit to use the park from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 23 to "provide a forum for a very large event where people would feel comfortable appearing."
According to a letter that Ferlo sent to police Chief Nate Harper and Public Safety Director Michael Huss (.pdf here), the event would entail "speeches and cultural entertainment focusing on the arrival of the G-20 delegates and international media to our great City" and which would be "entirely peaceful, motivated by the spirit of democratic participation, and open to the public."
The Trib characterized Ferlo's request as trying to create a "free speech zone."
Anyone paying attention during the, oh, last eight years or so knows that a "free speech zone" typically refers to setting up a designated area for protestors and only allowing protest/political speech to take place in that designated area (usually far from the political event) as a means of censoring free speech.
Anyone actually reading Ferlo's letter to Harper and Huss can see that Ferlo is not trying to censor speech, but rather, he's trying to initiate a rally which would enhance those desiring a peaceful, safe space to comment on the upcoming G-20 summit.
From my reading of his request, Ferlo is trying to provide AN ALTERNATIVE for those who have no desire to take to the streets but still wish to mark the summit -- a huge difference from the way that the Trib characterized his request.
I mean for Pete's sake, Ferlo cc'd Vic Walczak of the ACLU on his permit request! Does anyone really think that he would have done this if he was trying to curtail speech in any way?
Here's Ferlo's response to the Trib article:
Respectfully, I have been in public life for over 25 years and while I have taken exception to various editorials and news reporting I have never written and asked for a correction or retraction. The headline and your own reporting of an interview with me following the release of my letter to local public safety officials amounts to the pusillanimous neglect of accuracy and truth! I never , either in written word or our phone conversation, used the phrase or suggested a so-called "free-speech zone". A so-called "free speech zone" violates our right of free speech and assembly---anywhere! It would amount to me telling you and the Trib and Mr. Scaife that you could only sell or pass out the Trib at certain public intersections. My request and administrative processing of a permit for Pt. State Park is for obvious permitting procedures and exclusive use of an area. All the other events that I described to you generally provided a picture of the various actions that individuals and organizations, locally, nationally and from around the globe, will exercise leading up to and during the G-20 summit here in Pittsburgh. No one needs a permit or be told by police or government officials that free speech is limited to "certain designated areas". This is morally, politically and Constitutionally un-acceptable and I will go to jail should it be necessary to fight and secure this principle. All of the United States - anywhere - is guaranteed free speech and that's a pretty big "zone"!
Senator Jim Ferlo
Ferlo's office is requesting that you all use your free speech to "take a moment to write a letter to the Trib editor regarding you opinion on this matter."