A network of press rights advocates, led by the ACLU of Massachusetts, today filed an amicus brief in federal court claiming the City of Boston and the Boston Police Department intentionally restricted journalists’ access to speakers at a controversial August 19th rally on the Boston Common, and called upon the court to issue an order ensuring that press access will not be denied at the upcoming Nov. 18 rally.
The “friends of the court” submitting the brief include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Massachusetts, the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the New England chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The amicus brief was filed on behalf of neither party in the pending case, Del Gallo v. Walsh et al, and calls upon the court, in light of the existing request for preliminary injunctive relief in that case, to ensure that “broader press access should be made explicit,” as a matter of law.
Specifically, the brief asks the court to ensure that city officials: “1) allow close-up access by journalists to public areas where speakers assemble on November 18, and; 2) ensure that no member of the press is given less access than any member of the public.”
The brief follows a letter the group issued to the City of Boston on October 24th, urging the same changes.
“Reasonable security measures are critical to any public event, but those measures must not infringe on First Amendment rights,” said Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Changes need to be made to the City of Boston’s policies and procedures so the press has access to public demonstrations and can adequately cover them. Journalists must not be excluded from public events.”
ACLU of Massachusetts will deploy legal observers trained specifically to monitor press access at events reportedly taking place on the Boston Common this Saturday.