Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Houston City Parks Have “First Amendment Expression Areas”—Why Is This The Case?

Did you know that Houston city parks have designated “First Amendment Expression Areas?”

(Above–Houston City Hall Plaza is well-protected from any misplaced outbreak of free speech.)  

They sure do.

You might have thought that every part of a Houston city park was a “First Amendment Expression Area.”

You’d be wrong at least as we are told by our Houston Parks and Recreation Department.

From the Parks and Recreation Department—

“First Amendment Expression Areas are open to users for exercise of their First Amendment rights during park hours. Locations of First Amendment Expression Areas are listed below in alphabetic order. Although it is not a requirement of the area’s use, it is recommended that all users register to avoid conflicts. Users must register with the HPARD Permits Office (832) 395-7012 in order to reserve the area in advance.”

Right. The bold type is from the Parks Department.

You don’t have to get a permit. But you should. Imagine the problem if two citizens of Houston wished to exercise First Amendment rights at the same time?  And remember– First Amendment activity is allowed only in the designated area and only during certain hours.

To give you a sense of this, here is how the free speech area is described for Brentwood Park in Houston

“The area inside of the red square only is considered the First Amendment Expression Area. This is a 10ft x 10ft square located at Latitude: 29°38’9.39″N Longitude: 95°26’7.82″W”

It’s not enough to know that Brentwood Park is at 13220 Landmark here in Houston.  You’ve also got to know about  Latitude: 29°38’9.39″N Longitude: 95°26’7.82″W to exercise your First Amendment rights at Brentwood Park.

The free speech area at Brentwood Park is a 1oft X 10ft square.

How about City Hall Plaza?

You have some free speech rights at City Hall Plaza.  Here is a link to a picture of where you have First Amendment Rights at City Hall Plaza. 

In case the picture is not clear, let me help you out with information from the City of Houston about the free speech area at City Hall Plaza—

“The area inside of the red square only is considered the First Amendment Expression Area. This is a 10ft x 10ft square located at Latitude: 29°45’35.95″N Longitude: 95°22’8.55″W”

Got that?

I wonder if all the corporate  lobbyists who come in and out of Houston City Hall have to come outside and to discuss what they want from city officials in the free speech zone?

Here is the text of the First Amendment—

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

How many of these rights are restricted in Houston parks?

Has anyone been cited for engaging in free speech or any other First Amendment activity outside the First Amendment zone?

How long have these zones been in effect?

Why does the City of Houston feel these zones are needed?

(Below—The Houston Parks and Recreation Department is quite serious when they tell you it is “Our Park.” Here is the free speech area for Our Park.)

November 16, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Time, place and manner restrictions, when content-neutral, have been upheld over and over again. You likely agree with some of them yourself, though I doubt you’ll admit it.

    But if liberty is what you seek, and you can’t find it in Houston’s parks, try a Harris County park. They tend not to suffer from many of the problems city facilities face — hobo campouts, free-speech zones, being run by Democrats, etc.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | November 16, 2011

  2. Stunning!

    I suppose we need to carry maps to be sure we don’t violate these rules. And what do you do to determine Latitude and Longitude?

    Comment by GreenApples | November 16, 2011

  3. Matt, somehow I really don’t think occupying a Harris County park would be that effective. Only two I ever go to are Bear Creek and Mercer Arboretum. Occupy Mercer? Just makes no sense and I am sure the HCSD would sweep it out pretty fast.

    Comment by Bacopa | November 18, 2011

  4. Matt, somehow I really don’t think occupying a Harris County park would be that effective.

    No, of course it wouldn’t be. A lot of people wouldn’t see it, those that did would be turned off, and it would have essentially no impact on policy. In that sense, it would be just like occupying Zuccotti Park.

    But at least the tuberculosis would spread less quickly in Harris County’s more spacious facilities.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | November 18, 2011

  5. GreenApples–That could be a new business to start. Guding people to what they can and cannot do in public parks and supplying nautical equipment to help them navigate.

    Matt—You never know what will work or not work. We’ll see how it all ends up.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | November 18, 2011

  6. For a short period of time, a young man traveled about as a hobo from town to town sleeping on park benches. He was usually awakened by the police & forced to leave & that pissed him off.

    Later when George Hermann became as Houston millionaire, he gave money & land for a City Charity Hospital & land for the City Museum & land for the City Zoo & land for a large City Park across from Rice University.

    But he also gave land for a City Park across from City Hall with the stipulation that people be allowed to sleep there “undisturbed by the forces of law and order”

    Could make for an interesting court case.

    Comment by Dillon Schroeder | November 29, 2011


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