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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

Arrests At Occupy Houston—First Amendment Protections For Some But Not For Others

A number of people were arrested at Occupy Houston last night.

They were arrested for having a tarp out in the rain and for jaywalking.

Here is video of the arrests from the Houston Chronicle.

Here is a report from TV station KHOU.

Here is a report from TV station KPRC. 

If members of Occupy Houston could come up with a lot of money and bundle it into large anonymous donations so as to legally bribe politicians, that would have been protected speech under the Citzens United case.

Also–correctly–protected by the Supreme Court are the anti-gay protests of the Westboro Baptist Church at military funerals.

In Houston however, the presence of a tarp during rain and jaywalking merits arrest.

It would be great to see conservatives  speak up about the use of state power to stifle First Amendment protections.

The office of Houston Mayor Annise Parker released following on November 4—

“Here’s a statement Mayor Parker tweeted last night regarding Occupy Houston: “There has been misinformation spread regarding the Occupy Houston protests. We have not made plans to ‘evict’ the participants. The City and Occupy Houston have a working relationship to allow protesters to exercise their first amendment rights without endangering public health or safety”


Occupy Houston held a press conference this morning about the arrests and I attended.

I took some pictures at the press conference to run here on the blog.

Below—The press conference. Many Houston media outlets were interested in what had taken place.

Below—Two Occupy Houston participants being interviewed. In the background is a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King that reads—“Reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced

Below—A member of the National Lawyer’s Guild speaking to the press.  The Guild has been helping Occupy efforts across the nation with legal issues. The building is the foreground with the American flag on top is Houston City Hall. City Hall is dwarfed by the corporate tower in background.

Here is the Occupy Houston website.

Here is the Occupy Wall Street website.

My understanding is that the interactions with Houston police will be YouTube at some point soon.

Houston police officers are everyday working people no different from anybody else.

You can also find Occupy Houston, Occupy Wall Street and many other Occupy efforts on Facebook and on the web.

The placement of tarps and the actions of peaceful protesters were the most important things that Houston police had to deal with last night?

Occupy Houston protestors merit jail while the bank and financial executives who did so much to cause this recession with lies and fraud run free?

How can any person of any ideological viewpoint not be concerned with what is taking place with the arrests in a number of cities of Occupy protestors?

First it will be somebody else. Next time it will be you.

November 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Supreme Court Correct To Allow Westboro Church Protests—Political Speech Must Be Protected

I have a plane to catch so this will be brief.

I’m glad the Supreme Court has decided 8-1 that the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas has the right to protest outside of military funerals.

These are the folks who yell homophobic slurs in proximity of these funerals.

As odious as these protests are, we can’t pick and choose who may speak and who will not be allowed to speak.

This decision gives the assurance that the widest possible range of political speech will be protected in our nation.

March 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 8 Comments

Congress Wrong To Act On Either MoveOn Or Rush Limbaugh

Congress is wrong to become involved in the free speech rights of either online advocacy group Moveon.org or radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. 

It is no surprise that my terrible Senator, John Cornyn of Texas, offered the resolution in the Senate to condemn MoveOn.  

Both Moveon and Mr. Limbaugh have made recent statements seen by some as overly harsh or somehow  improper about persons involved with the War in Iraq.

Anyone can say anything they want about the war and about people fighting the war.

Congress condemned MoveOn in a formal vote. That was wrong. Now some in Congress want to condemn Mr. Limbaugh. This is wrong as well.

These issues are fine for campaign speeches.

However, when Congress gets into the business of voting on the merits of what should be protected free speech, we all risk losing our most basic freedoms.   


October 3, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Texas | , , , , | 1 Comment