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Protest Zone Put Closer to GOP Convention Site

July 25, 1996|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Hoping to end a controversy involving free speech, city officials Wednesday announced a new "protest zone" for the Republican National Convention that is closer to the convention center than the site rejected by a federal judge.

The site announced by City Manager Jack McGrory is 165 feet from the perimeter of the center where the Republicans will meet Aug. 12-15. A site 625 feet away was struck down last week by U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster as violating protesters' rights to be heard and seen by delegates.

At a follow-up hearing Wednesday, Brewster approved the new site and refused a suggestion from Republican Party attorneys to order the city to use metal detectors to search everyone using the site, now a parking lot. City officials said it is not necessary or feasible to use metal detectors.

McGrory said later that the Republican Party has notified the city that it has relinquished its right to veto the location of the protest zone. The party has that right in its agreement with the city to bring the convention to San Diego.

Convention organizers said in a statement, "We continue to have a concern about the safety of our delegates and the overall security of the convention given the current location of the demonstration site."

The American Civil Liberties Union had sued when the city, at the Republicans' request, had designed a three-acre site 625 feet from the center as the protest zone. ACLU attorney Jordan Budd said Wednesday he is pleased with the new site.

Sixty-five groups have signed up to use the zone, which will be ringed by a chain-link fence, to express their social and political views. Each group will get a 50-minute slot, in exchange for promising not to be rowdy.

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