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December 21, 2014

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Las Vegas council delays decision on Fremont ‘free expression’ zones

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Steve Marcus / Sun File Photo

The intersection of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard shows Neonopolis and the Fremont Street Experience. Neonopolis was part of a 10-year renovation program for the downtown area.

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010 | 1:06 p.m.

Fremont Street Experience

The Fremont Street Experience glows under its canopy as thousands of tourists patronize the businesses and casinos located on the historic street. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic asked the City Council on Wednesday for a two-week abeyance on an item that would create “free expression” zones on the Fremont Street Experience. At their meeting, the council unanimously agreed to the continuance.

The city’s proposed ordinance on Wednesday’s agenda would prohibit certain activities at the Fremont Street Experience, such as using megaphones, throwing objects into the air and using Hula-Hoops.

The ACLU of Nevada has spoken out against the proposed ordinance, saying it violates First Amendment rights.

During the city’s Recommending Committee meeting on Aug. 3, Jerbic gave a presentation about the history of the Fremont Street Experience. He presented several videos that showed protest, entertainment and advocacy activities that interfered with businesses on the street.

During the same meeting, ACLU of Nevada General Counsel Allen Lichtenstein presented a letter with a clear message: If the city passes this ordinance as-is, it will sue.

“The proponents of Bill 2010-31 claim that it imposes ‘reasonable time, place and manner’ restrictions on protected expression,” the letter said. “However, merely calling an ordinance a ‘reasonable time, place and manner’ restriction does not make it so.”

Lichtenstein said that during the past 13 years, the ACLU has fought the city numerous times about free speech rules at the Fremont Street Experience. He said he is confident the ACLU would win a case against the city if the ordinance is passed as presented.

Jerbic plans to ask for the continuance because there are ongoing discussions between the city and the ACLU, Radke said.

Lichtenstein said the ACLU has been talking with the city. Lichtenstein said he hopes during the next couple of weeks, they’ll be able to reach an agreement.

“Hopefully, we will make progress to the extent that the city will pass something that we won’t have to challenge in court,” Lichtenstein said. “The idea that you can create free speech zones on a public forum isn’t going to fly constitutionally.”

The final vote is scheduled for the city’s Sept. 1 council meeting.

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