SAN DIEGO – The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties sent a letter today asking the City of Vista to remove unconstitutional conditions on peaceful protests outside Rep. Darrell Issa’s office. For months, people have been gathering for demonstrations near the congressman’s office on the 1800 block of Thibodo Road. Earlier this year, Ellen Montanari, the organizer of the weekly protest, requested a permit from the city and was issued one effective through April 25. She later requested a longer permit but was issued one with an increased number of conditions that expired on May 31.
David Loy, Legal Director with the ACLU-SDIC, said the conditions on the permit are inappropriate and unconstitutional, especially the requirement to move the protest across the street, 100 feet from the office. “The First Amendment means that the government can’t tell the people where and how to protest in a public forum, unless it passes a strict test. The city failed that test.”
Ms. Montanari applied for a permit last month and asked the city to extend it through the summer, but the city has waited until this morning to issue a new permit and only through June 30. Throughout the protests, she has worked cooperatively with the city and law enforcement officers to ensure that the events are peaceful and safe, including the use of volunteer monitors and pylons and safety tape.
There is no justifiable reason not to allow the protests to continue on the sidewalk, Loy said.
“By organizing a protest on a public sidewalk, Ms. Montanari is engaging in political speech that is guaranteed the highest level of protection,” Loy wrote.
A copy of the ACLU letter to the City of Vista can be found here.