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City Hall ban ruled unconstitutional

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A federal judge has ruled that the issuing criminal trespass notices to ban anyone from City Hall is unconstitutional.

A U.S. District Judge sided with two Occupy Austin members that filed the lawsuit in December after they were issued criminal trespass warnings and banned from returning to City Hall in October 2011.

The lawsuit claims the city is violating occupier's First Amendment rights by banning them from exercising free speech at the plaza and their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process because of the criminal trespass administrative review process.

The judge's final judgment is that the city must stop enforcing the current procedures.

"It's a very strong reaffirmation of that right of citizens to go to public facilities to go to City Hall. The city can't just ban you because that's what the city wants to do," said Jim Harrington with the Civil Rights Project.

The City of Austin issued the following statement:

"The ruling directs the City not to enforce its 2011 administrative bulletin in relation to criminal trespass notices. This bulletin was created to support and defend all individuals' free speech, while balancing the importance of protecting the health and safety of all our residents. The ruling does not affect our current building use policy, which designates areas of City Hall for free speech purposes within an established process. The City's legal staff is reviewing the ruling and will determine what future actions to take, including a possible appeal."

Occupier's request for monetary damages in this case was denied.

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