Washington Law Review


Aaron Perrine


The 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Seattle was the target of highly organized, widely supported protest demonstrations. In response to the protests, city officials declared a state of emergency, ordering nighttime curfews and a daytime "no-protest zone" in downtown Seattle. They reasoned that the zone was necessary to protect the rights of WTO delegates and to restore public order. This Comment argues that mass nonviolent protests deserve more First Amendment protection than was afforded to demonstrators in Seattle. Even when violence occurs and public order is threatened, governments must narrowly tailor emergency orders to avoid trampling on peaceful protesters' First Amendment rights. An analysis of U.S. Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit case law demonstrates that Seattle's "no-protest zone" was unconstitutional and that courts should strike down similar restrictions on mass protests.

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