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Supreme Court won't hear case of Liberty Bell abortion protester

By Jonathan Stempel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of an anti-abortion protester who claimed his free speech rights were violated when park rangers removed him from a sidewalk near the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

Without comment, the court said it would not take up the case of Michael Marcavage, who was arrested in October 2007 when he used a bullhorn to lead a protest at the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center at Independence National Historical Park.

After refusing to accept an "oral permit" to protest elsewhere in the park, Marcavage, founder of the Repent America ministry, was arrested and ultimately convicted of two misdemeanors, which were later overturned.

Marcavage filed a separate civil case seeking damages from the federal government, the National Park Service and two park rangers, alleging violations of his rights under the U.S. Constitution.

In February, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his civil case. It said the rangers had qualified immunity, and that Marcavage was treated differently from others on the sidewalk because he was demonstrating without a permit, making too much noise, and potentially interfering with traffic.

On appeal, Marcavage had claimed that a sidewalk is a traditional public forum for speech. He said the 3rd Circuit struck an improper balance between legitimate law enforcement efforts and letting people exercise their rights.

The case is Marcavage v. Saperstein et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 11-1402.

(Editing by Howard Goller and Mohammad Zargham)

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