Ehrlich is asked to review procedures for handling public protests

June 10, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore legislator called on the governor yesterday to review his procedures for handling protesters at public events, after what he said appeared to be a violation of free-speech rights by state and local police at a veto ceremony last month.

Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, released an advice letter he solicited from the attorney general after reading news reports that state and local police prevented protesters from holding signs or verbally expressing their disapproval during a ceremony Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. held in Princess Anne to veto a bill that would require Wal-Mart to pay more for employee health care.

Kathryn M. Rowe, the assistant attorney general who responded to Rosenberg's request, wrote that she could not determine from the facts she had whether protesters' free-speech rights were violated.

But Rosenberg said that in light of case law, police action "raises serious concerns about the limitations imposed on free expression at the event." He asked Ehrlich to investigate.

"The citizens of Maryland must have confidence that the government will protect and uphold their freedom of expression," Rosenberg said in a statement. "The Governor must remove any suspicion that state officials authorized law enforcement personnel to suppress freedom of speech and expression at a public event."

Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said yesterday evening that the governor had not received Rosenberg's letter but would review it.

"The governor specifically spoke to opponents of his veto during his remarks, shook hands with protesters following his remarks, and several of those protesters are in the official photo taken at the event," DeLeaver said. "The governor insisted on meeting with these folks afterward."

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