The Associated Press October 18, 2011, 10:22AM ET

Protesters sue Cincinnati, says rights violated

A group protesting corporate greed filed a lawsuit Monday against Cincinnati, saying a rule that bars gathering in public parks at certain hours violates constitutional rights to free speech and assembly.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati on behalf of Occupy Cincinnati and four members of the group charges that the city parks board rule violates rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It was filed against the city and city agencies including the city parks board, the police department and the heads of those departments.

Some members of the group, which is part of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York, have been camping in a downtown city park for more than a week. No arrests had been made as of Monday, but more than 200 citations -- each carrying a $105 fine -- had been issued for protesters refusing to leave the park at its nighttime closing.

The threat of arrest, citation and fines has imposed a "chilling effect" that has caused individual members of Occupy Cincinnati and others to fear "for their safety, liberty and economic consequences that may be imposed," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit asks the court for a temporary and permanent order preventing the city from enforcing the park rule and directing the city's park board to issue the group a permit that would allow protesters to stay in the park after closing hours. It also seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

Messages left at the city manager's office and the city law department weren't immediately returned Monday.

"This case is not about the whether you agree with the political views of Occupy Cincinnati or Occupy Wall Street; it's about the right of the people to assemble in a public park and to engage in protected speech," J. Robert Linneman, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said.

Organizers for the group have said they intend to stay in the park until there's fundamental change in the amount of corporate influence on American government.


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