City of Houston: First Amendment Advisory

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  Ever had problems deciding EXACTLY where in a city park to protest or demonstrate something? Don't worry the Houston Parks Department has your back. For example at Bell Park it's at Latitude 29 degrees 43'46.20" N. Longitude 95 degrees 23'28.47" W. http://www.houstontx.gov/parks/pdfs/FreeSpeechArea/Bell%20Park.pdf. The First Amendment Area is 10'X10'. And it's not just Bell Park, check it out! Under each park listed there is a clickable link to the Free Speech Area for each park: http://www.houstontx.gov/parks/ourparks/ourparksA-F.htm  Actually, we can't even locate an ordinance that aligns with these park regulations so I guess we can just file this under Website Law.

 

However, Stop the Magnet had difficulties in fitting our 20' banner, see photo. I stopped by the Permits Dept. on Washington Ave. as it was recommended that one should obtain a permit although not mandatory...feel relieved?  I had spoken with a woman before arriving to see if she would explain the need and she claimed that by informing the parks dept. prior to practising First Amendment it helped them know who was there in case someone called or had concerns. After I came to the office to apply in person (they really wanted everything submitted online) she had no clear anwsers or handouts for the public. We all apparently need to wait on Sonya Ellis for anwsers and permission (she was on a long lunch). There is no spontaneous First Amendment however, you must wait for the permit to be processed and for a FEE, just submit your request to Sonya online. 

Neil Aquino wrote about this in 2011: http://blog.chron.com/texasliberal/2011/11/houston-city-parks-have-first-amendment-expression-areas/

Note the marker about mid-point in the banner, that's the limit.

UPDATE! City of Houston e-mail communications reveal a callous and careless perspective on the First Amendment.

EXHIBIT A:TWO parks employees go determine (FOR YOU) where the free speech areas will be located in an afternoon-they are targetting 20 more parks.

Parks employees hit a list of city parks to choose a free speech area under a deadline

EXHIBIT B: Read the second communication: ".....free speech controls"?

"free speech controls"?