Federal judge rules protesters can't march through Republican National Convention security zone


MADISON, Wis . (AP) — A federal judge ruled Monday that protesters can't march through a security zone at the Republican National Convention, handing a defeat to liberals who had pushed to have closer access to where delegates will be gathering next week in Milwaukee.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Coalition to March on the RNC 2024 filed a lawsuit last month against the city of Milwaukee, alleging that the city's plans for protesters violated their free speech rights. They had asked the judge to order that the city design a protest parade route that is within sight and hearing of the Fiserv Forum where thousands of Republicans will be gathering starting Monday to nominate Donald Trump for president.

U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig said in his order that protesters have a right to march in protest of the RNC, “but the First Amendment does not allow them to protest or parade in any way they choose.”

Ludwig said that Milwaukee city officials and the U.S. Secret Service have worked to balance protesters' right to express themselves and “legitimate security and other governmental interests.”

“The vast majority of the resulting security plan is a reasonable and valid time, place, and manner regulation on speech,” the judge said in denying the protesters’ request for closer access to the convention site.

The judge sided with the ACLU on one issue, ruling that the city and the Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke could not approve speaker and demonstration applications on the basis of an applicant’s criminal history.

Ludwig said the city “overstepped their authority in reserving their ability to deny protest permits based on” a past criminal conviction.

Both sides have until Wednesday if they wish to pursue other legal options.

Omar Flores, chairman of the March on the RNC Coalition, declined to comment on the ruling before the group holds a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Protesters have complained that the city is keeping them too far away from the convention site, which is inside a security perimeter where credentials are required to gain access. Protesters have wanted to march inside that security zone. However, the security plan establishes a parade route about five blocks from the arena, with a stage for speakers within the route.