As We See It

Free speech, expensive pursuit

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It’s nice to know that Oscar Goodman, et al. can still find enough money in the city’s sofa cushions to continue making the Fremont Street Experience a civil-rights battleground. A legal fight’s been going on since 1997 because FSE has been hermetically sealed against freedom of expression, be it leaflets, street entertainment or politics—but no court has seen FSE as anything less than a public forum. Yet our city, proving Einstein’s definition of insanity as doing the same thing and expecting a different result, is ready to introduce a bill establishing “free expression zones” at FSE. Its justification? Protecting the business interests involved. “Business interests don’t trump the First Amendment,” says ACLU general counsel Allen Lichtenstein, who adds the city has already paid “in the six figures” for ACLU attorney fees alone tilting at this particular windmill. Last time we checked, the city was looking at cutting hundreds of jobs. Allow us to say something we probably couldn’t shout from a soapbox in the Fremont Street Experience: This is no time to for the city to keep fighting for something it can’t—and shouldn’t—defend.

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