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ACLU of Utah Asks Mayor Ross Anderson to Clarify Salt Lake
City’s Proposal to Accommodate Free Speech Activities During
the Olympic Games
August 10, 2001
By Facsimile and U.S. Mail
Mayor Ross C. Anderson
451 South State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
Dear Mayor Anderson:
On August 1, 2001, Salt Lake City announced its plan for accommodating free speech activities
during the Olympic Games. We first learned of the plan from the press. We initially declined to
comment, hoping to learn more about the plan. We attended the open house to gather additional
information. Unfortunately, not much additional information was forthcoming, so we answered
press inquiries as best we could based on the little information available. Our reaction was, and is,
that the plan pays lip service to the First Amendment while seeking to marginalize and effectively
silence the thousands of people who may wish to attend the Olympics to engage in lawful free
speech activities. We hope we are wrong. We therefore write to request additional necessary
information. Please consider this letter a request under the Utah Governmental Records Access
and Management Act, Utah Code Ann. §§ 63-2-101 et. seq.
Let us review what we understand to be principal features of the City’s plan:
(1) The City has permitted a nine square block area in central downtown to SLOC. The fenced off
area, or the Salt Lake Olympic Square (“SLOS”), encompasses all of the major venues for Olympic
events in downtown Salt Lake City, including the Delta Center and the Medals Plaza, as well as the
Main Media Center. The City has designated 2 areas within SLOS – one near the Delta Center,
and one near the Medals Plaza – to accommodate a maximum of 10 protesters each. It is unclear
precisely where the sites actually will be and how large they will be, and therefore it is difficult to
determine whether they will provide meaningful access to protesters’ intended audiences.
(2) The City has designated two areas in the vicinity of SLOS – one near the North entrance, for a
maximum of 30 demonstrators, and one near the East entrance, for a maximum of 20
demonstrators. Again, it is unclear precisely where these site will be, and how close they are to
the entrances, but they appear to be 400’ to 500’ away. It is therefore unclear whether they will
provide meaningful access to people entering SLOS.
(3) The City has designated one area in Pioneer Park, near the primary spectator loading/unloading
location, for a maximum of 100 protesters.
In short, the proposal allows a maximum of 170 demonstrators at any given time, spread across
five “designated forums.” As we understand it, these are the only areas that demonstrations will be
allowed in a 16 square block (2 square mile) area of downtown Salt Lake City, which comprises a
number of “traditional public forums.” If one considers only the public sidewalks within and around
that area, one can estimate that they comprise several linear miles and hundreds of thousands of
square feet – of which only a tiny fraction has been designated for free speech activities. On its
face, this does not seem to be either a reasonable or even a workable accommodation of the
thousands of protesters that may attend the event with the desire lawfully to share their views.
Another part of the plan is what appears to be a new, ad hoc permitting scheme. That scheme will
be administered by an “Olympic Omnibus Advisory Committee.” We have not seen any legislation
authorizing this body or describing its composition or duties, nor do we know what criteria it will
use to decide who gets to use what area when. All the City has said is that this body will be in
charge of evaluating requests for permits both within and outside the 16-square-block area
discussed above “on a case-by-case basis,” and that applications, available September 1, will be
reviewed on a first-come, first-serve basis. All groups interested in demonstrating apparently must
reapply under this new scheme, even though several have had permit applications pending for
months under the existing ordinance governing organized free speech activities in Salt Lake City.
It is unclear to us whether what the City has announced is in fact a proposal or a final plan. It may
well be that the plan is a proposal, since we are not aware of any City Council or other action that
might be necessary to authorize such an ad hoc departure from the City’s existing free speech
ordinance. It may also well be that the above summary is incorrect or incomplete because we are
operating with limited information or because we misunderstand some important aspect of the
plan. If so, it is not because we have not tried to obtain all the relevant information. So that we can
more fully understand and evaluate the City’s plan, please provide the following specific information:
(1) All documents reflecting the current terms, status and effect of the City’s plan.
(2) All documents depicting or describing with particularity the precise location and size of each
“designated public forum,” along with a detailed description of any surrounding or adjacent
structures or other physical features, whether permanent or temporary, that would interfere with or
in any way affect the ability of those using each area to communicate their messages.
(3) Any ordinance or other legislation establishing and authorizing the “Olympic Omnibus Advisory
(4) All documents referring to or describing that Committee, its composition, its duties, and the
standards it will employ in reviewing permit applications and allocating access to the proposed
“designated public forums” as well as traditional public forums in Salt Lake City.
(5) All documents referring to or describing facts or considerations supporting the reasonableness
of the City’s plan in accommodating free speech activities during the Olympics.
(6) All documents, including any legal memoranda or other authority the City Attorney’s office,
SLOC or others might have prepared in connection with the plan, that the City believes demonstrate
or support the reasonableness of its plan.
Finally, we would appreciate receiving any clarifications and corrections to the above summary.
We look forward to receiving the City’s response within ten days.
Stephen C. Clark
cc: Justin Toth, Esq.