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Ward v. Rock Against Racism

    Brief Fact Summary. Pock Against Racism (Respondent) is a sponsor of a rock concert who challenges New York City’s restriction on the volume of performances on Central Park.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Government regulation of a public forum does not have to be the least restrictive alternative.

    Facts. Central Park contains an amphitheatre that is next to Central Park West and a quiet relaxation area of the park, Sheep Meadow. In an effort to maintain the quietness of the area, the city has imposed a restriction on all performances to use specified amplification equipment and staff provided by the city.

    Issue. Is the city’s restriction of amplification equipment Constitutionally valid?

    Held. Yes. This is a proper time, place, manner restriction that does not discriminate based on content.

    Dissent. This regulation is not narrowly tailored and the majority has abandoned the requirement that a regulation be the least intrusive means of achieving the goal of quiet.

    Discussion. The city has a legitimate interest in keeping the sound from permeating the surrounding residential and other quiet areas. A content-neutral restriction does not need to be the least restrictive manner of accomplishing a goal. But, it must still be narrowly drawn and not substantially burden the speech. Volume control is not a burden on speech.

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