ACLU Suing City of Cambridge Over Public Safety Services Fees
Cambridge MA - The American Civil Liberaties Union (ACLU) is a national non-profit organization whose goal is to defend the Constitutional rights of every person in America. The Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU is suing the City of Cambridge for the city's policy of charging organizers for public safety services as a necessary condition for being granted permits for demonstrations.
The ACLU's lawsuit against Cambridge was filed on Tuesday, July 3rd. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the Massachusetts Peace Action and the Massachusetts Peace Action Education Fund-- a chapter of another non-profit grass-roots organization that works to promote widespread peace and equitable political power. The Peace Action crew members helped plan the Women's March event in January 2018 that specifically took place on the Cambridge Common. A few photos taken at this event that nationwide worked to raise awareness of various sexist issues within America can be seen at the end of the article. The march in the Cambridge Commons, one year ater President Trump was inaugurated, saw nearly 5,000 people.
This Women's March sparked the ACLU's lawsuit because the organizers within Peace Action were billed thousand of dollars for things like police detailing during the event and emergency medical techncian services ater the event. Although these various fees come in the name of necessary public safety and allowed the Women's March to thrive, the group of organizers were even only told about the fees less than two weeks before the event. The ACLU believes that the fees should not come at all at the expense of the organizers.The ACLU of Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose defended the lawsuit by claiming that a peaceful protest is at the core of the First Amendment and therefore the fees are an unlawful tax; she states that this practice of service fees "deters political participation" and "At a time when the federal government is inciting division and seeking to chill free speech, the voices of these organizers and participants should be encouraged and applauded, not taxed"-- especially through a city as liberal as Cambridge.
There has yet to be much commentary from the city itself.
City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said that the issue had already been in discussion with the ACLU and he was "disappointed that they chose to go to the Superior Court" instead of work on the issue collaboratively with them. Director of Communication and Community Rleations for the city, also, stated that the lawsuit was received on Tuesday and "therefore have not had an opportunity to fully review it".
All photos come from Kristin LaFratte through MassLive.com.