ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Anti-Wall Street protesters in Minneapolis will be able to affix signs and posters to the plaza outside the Hennepin County Government Center but cannot use tents or sleep on the plaza, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
The protesters argued that the county’s rules against having tents, using electricity, writing with chalk, or posting signs were unconstitutional and violated their free speech rights.
But except for the ban on posting signs, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle sided with the county, saying the restrictions were reasonable. The judge granted the protesters’ request to block the county from enforcing the ban on posting signs but denied their other requests.
Kyle also ordered both sides into settlement talks. He noted that the protesters, who have been at the downtown Minneapolis plaza since Oct. 7, were unlikely to leave anytime soon and that the county has recognized that the demonstrators may assemble in the plaza “during any hour of the day.”
“Hence, the parties are going to have to ‘learn to live’ with one another,” Kyle wrote.
The county has said it was being respectful of protesters’ First Amendment rights, but that the plaza wasn’t a campground.
Alain Baudry, an attorney for the protesters, said the judge’s order means that effective immediately, the county can bar people from sleeping on the plaza. New rules that went into effect last week said protesters could no longer tape signs on county property or sleep on the grounds.
“I’m sure my clients are disappointed by the decision but we appreciate the judge gave the issue his considered attention,” Baudry said.
Dan Rogan, senior assistant attorney for Hennepin County, said the county was pleased overall with the judge’s ruling but would look at the decision on signs as the case moves forward.
“What we’re trying to do is get to a peaceful, reasonable resolution,” Hennepin County spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said. “Nobody wants any conflict here unnecessarily.”
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