Judge negates Golden Gate rules

Jan. 14, 2011 at 6:37 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- California's Golden Gate Bridge District violates protester rights by mandating permits for and banning bullhorns and hand-held signs, a judge ruled.

The guidelines established by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District, which exists to provide and maintain transportation services along the U.S. Highway 101 Golden Gate Corridor, also banned protests after 2 p.m. on weekends, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

The District makes protests much harder to see or hear, prevents spontaneous demonstrations and does little to promote traffic safety, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled Jan. 7.

District officials offered no evidence showing "an individual or a small group with a sign amidst the multitude on the bridge's sidewalks realistically presents a serious threat to traffic and safety," Patel said.

If Patel's ruling stands, it will overturn the weekend and holiday hour restrictions and other bans on groups smaller than 50 without affecting larger groups, the Chronicle said.

Bay Area activists Derek Turner and Toby Blome filed suit challenging all the provisions except the limits on weekday protest hours.

"This is a victory for free speech, for spontaneous speech and for the right to protest," Ajay Krishnan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Thursday.

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