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A New York state judge Wednesday dealt a resounding defeat to protest organizers who were denied a permit for a rally in Central Park on the eve of next week’s Republican National Convention, saying city officials did not violate their constitutional rights. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline W. Silbermann, the administrative judge for Supreme Civil Court, said New York City had applied reasonable principles in rejecting the rally, which could have brought 250,000 people to the Great Lawn and, officials said, severely damaged its new grass. “The Parks Department appropriately applied content-neutral regulations while leaving plaintiff with a reasonable alternate site,” the judge wrote in United for Peace and Justice v. Bloomberg, 111893/04. She criticized the group, United for Peace and Justice, saying it had “squandered” an opportunity to organize a rally on the Westside Highway. The group did not “come to court with ‘clean hands’” and was “guilty of inexcusable and inequitable delay” before filing its suit against the city last week,” Judge Silbermann said. Because the group sued so late, she said, there was not enough time to plan for a safe rally in Central Park this Sunday that would not damage the grass. “Indeed, it is this Court’s opinion that if plaintiff had filed the instant application in a timely fashion, operational plans could have been implemented to accommodate plaintiff’s desire for a rally in Central Park, with adequate protection for the public and preserving the integrity of the park lands,” Justice Silbermann wrote. The group was denied a park permit in April. In July, it agreed to march north along Seventh Avenue to Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention, and then proceed to a rally on the highway. But the group changed its mind on Aug. 10, saying it could not afford to pay for the equipment necessary to make the rally audible for those standing along the highway far from the stage. It applied for a new park permit and sued a week later, alleging violations of free speech protections under the state Constitution. “In short, to the extent plaintiff claims that the … site will be inadequate for its purposes, the shortcomings will largely have been of its own making,” the judge wrote. She said the group could have concentrated its efforts on securing private funding to pay for the equipment and planning the event, rather than turning it down less than two weeks before the convention. She concluded that since the park could not hold the event, there were not two “choices which the State Constitution would distinguish as constitutional or unconstitutional.” In a statement, Assistant Corporation Counsel Jonathan L. Pines, who litigated the case, said the protest group waited too long to sue. “It serves no one’s interest — neither the city’s, the demonstrators’ and particularly the safety of the general public — to leave these very difficult issues for last-second resolution,” he said. Christopher Dunn, an attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union who is representing the group, said that despite the loss, the fight over the use of Central Park for large political rallies had just begun and would likely lead to further litigation. “The notion that this rally having to be on the Westside Highway doesn’t burden their speech just belies the facts,” Mr. Dunn said. The group’s leaders and attorneys were scheduled to meet with police officials last night about the final route of the march. But Mr. Dunn said there would be no negotiations about an alternate rally site. Earlier in the day, the city offered to allow a rally on Houston Street, but the group rejected it. “If there’s not a rally in Central Park, there’s going to be no rally as part of this event,” he said. “There are no negotiations about a rally. None.” He added that people can still go to the park if they want to. “There’s nothing in this ruling that prevents people from going to the park, and if people want to go to the park as an act of protest or otherwise, they are free and entitled to do so,” he said. Earlier in the week, a federal judge, Southern District Judge William H. Pauley III, found that another set of protesters had waited too long to sue the city over use of the Great Lawn. Justice Silbermann cited that ruling Wednesday, saying that while it was not controlling, “it is worth noting that the grounds for denial of the instant application are, if anything, stronger than those considered in the Federal suit.”

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