Dear Mayor Tomlinson and Police Chief Boren

,
We write to express our concern regarding the unprecedented restrictions that the City of
Columbus has placed on the yearly "chool of the !mericas Watch" "igil, including limiting the
number of demonstrators to #$$ and prohibiting the construction of a stage at the traditional
protest site% We belie"e that these restrictions not only contra"ene the spirit of the &irst
!mendment, but also flout 'udicial precedents set last decade when the City of Columbus
unsuccessfully attempted to restrict the &irst and &ourth !mendment rights of (igil attendees%
!s you may )now, e"ery *o"ember since +,,$, thousands of demonstrators ha"e gathered
peacefully in front of the "tone -ate" of &t% Benning, which houses the Western .emisphere
/nstitute for ecurity Cooperation 0W./*1C2, formerly )nown as the chool of the !mericas
03!2% Demonstrators commemorate those who ha"e allegedly perished at the hands of
3!4W./*1C graduates and demand a change in 5%% go"ernment policy with respect to
6atin !merica%
The City of Columbus has 'urisdiction o"er the public street in front of the gates to &t% Benning
0&t% Benning 7oad2, and has traditionally allowed protestors to utili8e the part of the street from
(ictory Dri"e until the "tone -ate" entrance% Courts ha"e held that this tradition has established
a right for demonstrators to hold the yearly "igil outside the tone -ate% ee Columbus "%
Bourgeois, *o% 9:$+;C(;+9<;= 0Middle District -!, *o"% +>, #$$+20"The -o"ernment has
dedicated this property from (ictory Dri"e to the gates of &ort Benning as public forum for the
expression of political dissent, free speech, without permit, for ++ years%%%% The property is public
forum from (ictory Dri"e to the gate%"2
We understand that, in a ?une #=, #$+9 letter to "igil organi8ers, Police Chief Boren wrote that
unspecified "safety issues% % % re@uire the limitation of the numbers of participants" to a maximum
of "two hundred participants" that may demonstrate peacefully in the traditional site near the
"tone -ate%" 5pon further in@uiry, we learned that the primary 'ustification gi"en for this
drastic change in protocol is to a"oid traffic disturbances to the base, despite the existence of
many alternati"e entrances%
/t is undisputed that the limit of #$$ demonstrators is insufficient to deal with the expected
attendance for the e"ent% !ccording to the *ew Aor) Times, +<,$$$ people attended the (igil in a
single year% While attendance fluctuates from year to year, no one contends that a permit for #$$
demonstrators would be sufficient to meet the needs of the "igil% !ccommodations must be made
to ensure that all demonstrators wishing to exercise their &irst !mendment rights may freely do
so%
We do not belie"e that concerns about traffic flow are an ade@uate reason for this sudden change
in the permit, and are concerned that it may be an attempt to suppress the demonstratorsB &irst
!mendment rights% These restrictions on the "igil are li)ely not "content;neutral," nor are they
sufficiently "narrowly tailored" to a "compelling go"ernment interest," as re@uired by &irst
!mendment 'urisprudence% &urther, it would be an unnecessary waste of resources, as well as a
public relations error for the city, to force this issue to be litigated in the courts once again%
! simple solution would be to close the road as has been done in past years% &t% Benning officials
could be encouraged to utili8e the % 6ump)in entrance, or any of the other entrances, for traffic
flows% While the demonstration may impede traffic and constitute an incon"enience to &t%
Benning, these types of disruptions are part and parcel of our countryBs proud tradition of
"igorous free speech%
!s always, we than) you for your ser"ice and consideration of our "iews on this important
matter%
incerely,
John Conyers, Jr.
Member of Congress
Jim McGovern
Member of Congress
John Lewis
Member of Congress
Hank Johnson
Member of Congress
Sam Farr
Member of Congress
Danny K. Davis
Member of Congress
Barbara Lee
Member of Congress
Michael Capano
Member of Congress
!e"er DeFa#io
Member of Congress
Jan Schakowsky
Member of Congress
Ma$ine %a"ers
Member of Congress
Lis G"ierre#
Member of Congress

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