MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - The first weekend of the Minnesota State Fair could be much busier than usual this year. On Saturday, a "Black Lives Matter" protest is planned for outside the fairgrounds.
That got us thinking about one state fair case that made it all the way to the highest court in America, and what it means for protestors.
There's a reason you see organizations and political groups in booths and tents, they aren't allowed to walk around handing out stuff. But what about the first amendment you ask? Well, the Minnesota State Fair was once the subject of a United States Supreme Court decision.
In the "Black Lives Matter” booth, not affiliated with the St. Paul group organizing the protest, Todd Gramenz is selling shirts and spreading his message -- “Our primary message is that we would like people to remain peaceful for me, myself, and Martin Luther King.”
Gramenz said he paid $2,500 for the booth because the state fair rule which requires the sale or distribution of items be "from a fixed location," such as a booth. The fair can make rules like this because Minnesota law says so. But the rule regulating organizations to booths hasn't always made sense to everyone.
In 1981, a religious organization called the International Society for the Kirshna Consciousness challenged the rule, and took it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided the fair could keep organizations in booths in the interest of keeping the crowds orderly.
That means people can walk around and chat with other fair-goers, but no banners, picketing, or marches inside the fair -- they have a rule on that as well.
Gremenz says he's happy in his booth, “talking and communicating and educating people versus having just actual shirts.”
Again, that booth is not affiliated with the Black Lives Matter group organizing the protest on Saturday. Their plan remains to stay out of the fair, and they have no booth as of now.
Minnesota State Fair statement regarding Black Lives Matter protest
"Black Lives Matter announced a plan to conduct a protest at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29 on Snelling Avenue. They do not intend to protest on the fairgrounds. State Fair police and staff are working diligently to ensure the safety of all and to make Saturday as safe and enjoyable as every other day at the fair.
The State Fair has a very large and comprehensive Emergency Management Plan that covers a myriad of situations from accidents to weather related incidents. One of the dozens of situations in the Emergency Management Plan under the broader category of human incidents is street demonstrations. The fair has a regulation that prohibits bannering, picketing and interfering on the grounds, and we are well prepared to handle demonstrations here. Our Public Safety staff of more than 300 is outstanding and works closely with local police, along with regional and national law enforcement to coordinate efforts and ensure the safety of all on and off the fairgrounds.
On Saturday, we will keep fair visitors informed of traffic or pedestrian delays to the fairgrounds via our website and social media channels."