CLEVELAND—The ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to Cleveland officials today claiming that the city is violating the free speech rights of groups seeking to participate in the Republican National Convention by delaying approval of event permits. The ACLU is acting on behalf of the groups Citizens for Trump and Organize Ohio, as well as activist John Penley, who are organizing events during the RNC. Delays in permit review are threatening the ability of organizers to hold events because necessary plans cannot be finalized without prior responses from the city.

“Delays by the city are effectively blocking groups from exercising their fundamental right to political expression,” said Christine Link, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio. “Cleveland is using security planning as a mask to suppress political speech. The city’s decision to allow such long delays is creating unacceptable barriers for potential demonstrators, regardless of political affiliation.”

Despite numerous meetings and communication between the ACLU and city officials, no requests for permits have received a response. City officials have stated that organizers may have to wait until two weeks before the convention for their plans to be approved or denied, but that the parade ordinance will still be enforced.

Read the letter to the city of Cleveland.

“Expecting groups to wait until July for a decision from the city plainly denies people access to this event,” Link said. “Organizers need adequate notice to arrange transportation, rent equipment, and notify their supporters. The city is approaching a point where people have no choice but to abandon the opportunity to express themselves on a national stage or simply break the law.”

The ACLU is demanding that the city issue permit decisions before June 1. Otherwise the organization plans to seek legal remedy.

“The city of Cleveland has an obligation to ensure that everyone’s constitutional rights are protected during the convention,” Link said. “The First Amendment applies to everyone regardless of their political views, and cannot be simply cast aside in the name of security planning.”

Co-counsel Norman Siegel is representing John Penley in this matter.