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Milwaukee Common Council to vote on ordinance regulating RNC demonstrations

The city is giving a closer look at rules and regulations regarding speakers and marches during that July week through an ordinance passed by the Public Works Committee during their Monday meeting.
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Posted at 12:16 PM, Mar 19, 2024

MILWAUKEE — When the Republican National Convention comes to town this summer, demonstrations will be close behind.

The city is giving a closer look at rules and regulations regarding speakers and marches during that July week through an ordinance passed by the Public Works Committee during their Monday meeting.

Local groups planning to demonstrate that week attended the meeting to ensure convention leaders do not hinder their First Amendment rights, saying their access under this ordinance is not enough.

Omar Flores co-chairs the Coalition to March on the RNC, which has been organizing to oppose the Milwaukee convention since it was announced it would be held in the city.

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Omar Flores, co-chair for the Coalition to March on the RNC. Flores and the coalition sat in on Monday’s Public Works Committee meeting to request more access for protestors during July’s RNC.

The group sat in Monday's meeting to speak against the ordinance on the table, with Flores saying,“There are a lot of things in the ordinance that we definitely don't support.”

The ordinance says there will be a specific speaking area and “parade route" for community groups that both require prior sign-ups and time slots.

Some regulations in those zones include:

-Only using microphones and sound systems provided by the city
-Leaving those areas as soon as the time slot has finished
-Immediate removal by officials in cases of civil disturbance, potential violence

“Essentially we don't really trust their judgment on such calls,” said Flores.

Meanwhile, city officials like Nick DeSiato, the mayor's chief of staff, claim these rules are necessary to make sure their voices are heard fairly.

“Absent any type of structure, it will be very difficult for these individuals to express their views and have it heard,” DeSiato said.

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Nick DeSiato, chief of staff for the mayor.

I asked the mayor's chief of staff what his reaction was to some of the group's concerns.

“Well, that’s exactly what we're here about,” DeSiato replied. “It’s the opportunity to express your view. We're here talking about your First Amendment rights, your ability to demonstrate, and what more of a perfect opportunity is there than in a public forum, in a public committee meeting, to express what your views are?”

It's still not clear where the protest zones will be, though DeSiato says they are working to attain a county park as the speaker platform location.

We went around the proposed security area to see what local businesses think about having protestors inside or outside the perimeter.

Nate Moore, a bar manager with Build a Breakfast, Build a Burger, says the right to free speech is more important than any potential impacts the traffic may have on his business.

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Nate Moore, bar manager for Build a Breakfast Build a Burger. Their shop is looking forward to the business coming with the RNC and aren’t concerned about protestors. He says it’s important everyone’s First Amendment rights to free speech aren’t violated.

“While there should still be restrictions in terms of access to political figures and leaders and everything, I think it is important that people have that right. Whether it's in the designated security zone or not,” Moore stated.

Officials say details about where those demonstration zones will be won't come out until the summer.

The Common Council is taking a full vote on the ordinance in their March 19 meeting. If it passes DeSiato says the city will work on opening the online portal so groups can register for a time slot.