Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Right to Offend: City of Vancouver Special Events Ordinance: A Study of Right to Assemble

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra from

In June 2010, Vancouver City Council confronted a dilemma: how to manage large crowds of people while upholding the right to assemble.

It's one thing when you're dealing with a group of music lovers, seated quietly, as in the photo above at Esther Short Park. It's another thing entirely when there's a
protest rally and matters get out of hand, as it did at the WTO Rally in Seattle in 1999.

Here's a look at the local issue and the players:

Vancouver council opts against rules for free speech gatherings


■ Previously: The ­Vancouver City Council has been debating whether “expressive activities” — political rallies or other First Amendment-protected speech, for example — in groups of larger than 100 should require a permit and insurance. Monday was the fourth time the group has debated the topic as part of a special events ordinance.

■ What’s new: The council voted 4-3 Monday night against requiring permits, instead instructing staff to create recommendations for notifying the city and for insurance.

■ What’s next: New language will be drafted by the city’s staff and attorneys; the revamped ordinance and recommendations will go before the council again.

The best rule for political and other First Amendment protected speech in Vancouver is to have no rules at all, a narrow margin of the city council decided Monday night.

The seemingly unsexy topic of crafting a comprehensive special events ordinance in time for the city’s concert, fireworks and festival season has sparked a feisty debate over free speech between council members and concerned citizens — particularly members of the Tea Party movement.

You can read the rest of the piece at

Then there is an article about the final decision at

What do you think? We'll hear from Mayor Tim Leavitt, City Attorney Ted Gathe and Special Events Manager Cara Cantonwine today.

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