Rose parade seen as test of free speech

PASADENA – Brought into focus for a few hours each year to a global audience, a stretch of Colorado Boulevard became for some last week a testing ground for the First Amendment.

As visibility-seeking protesters interacted with law-enforcement personnel tasked with keeping the Rose Parade safe, some complained that the line blurred between security and censorship.

“The Rose Parade presents a really significant dilemma for Pasadena in that we do have First Amendment rights,” said Peter Thottam of the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center. “What happened at the parade would largely be an unknown phenomenon and would have been ignored by KTLA and NBC and the major media.”

Designated by the Department of Homeland Security as an “event of national significance,” parade security was elevated to the same level as that immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, police said.

Secret Service agents were even on hand, with two assigned to protect Mayor Bill Bogaard.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and California First Amendment Coalition said Pasadena may have gone too far in its efforts to keep unofficial expression out of the event.

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