The Republican National Convention gets underway in Tampa Bay, Florida, this weekend, soon to be followed in September by the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Many people will be outside both events in the hopes of telling conventioneers their minds on a wide variety of issues. Unfortunately past experience shows that there will likely be efforts in both cities to restrict protesters by a variety of means, including corralling them in so-called "free speech zones" far from the action of the conventions.

Such zones are unconstitutional, but cities have discovered that if they delay specifying where they will be until the last minute, they can often get away with them because there isn't adequate time to challenge them in court.

"It’s sad and ironic that the political conventions, which at some level are supposed to represent democracy and freedom, have become empty, stage-managed, institutionalized, Soviet-style show events, while simultaneously becoming the occasion to sell out real individuals’ actual, ground-level free speech rights as a “cost of doing business," says Jay Stanley, the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project senior policy analyst.
In a blog post on the issue, Stanley explains that in addition to these free-speech zones, protesters may also have to face arrest and surveillance.

But we can't let these tactics stop us. We have a right to assemble and to protest. Whether it's in Tampa Bay, Charlotte or Helena, stand up for that right.