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Last week, the region’s transit agency put in writing a policy that restricts where people can demonstrate, picket, hand out pamphlets and do other First Amendment-y things.
If you want to demonstrate, picket or hand out pamphlets within San Diego’s public transit system, in most cases you’re out of luck.
Last week, the board of the region’s Metropolitan Transit System unanimously approved an effort to restrict all these things and other public expressions the agency calls First Amendment Activities on buses, trolleys and outside the majority of stations. For the 13 trolley stations where MTS will allow First Amendment Activities — primarily those on the Green Line which runs near Interstate 8 — people need to get a permit before they can exercise their rights.
The vote wasn’t a policy change, said Karen Landers, MTS’ general counsel, but simply put in writing what the agency was already doing.
David Loy, the legal director for the local ACLU, said MTS could legitimately keep people from blocking traffic and impose restrictions inside its facilities. But he said the policy implies the agency could restrict public discussions on sidewalks, which would be too broad.
“If it’s treated as a public sidewalk, regardless of who owns it, it’s still a public forum,” Loy said.
Landers, MTS’ lawyer, said the agency was within its rights to restrict demonstrating and other activities on parts of the sidewalk where people board busses.
To help you understand where you’re allowed to do First Amendment Activities within the transit system, we made this map:
View MTS Trolley Stations in a full screen map