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Roy Ruffino, a signature gatherer, sued the City of Puyallup because the City implements pedestrian safety zones at the two busiest gates (Gold and Blue) of the Washington State Fair during the fall and spring fairs. Pedestrian safety zones are small designated areas of the sidewalk that allow people to queue and stage before crossing Meridian in order to enter or exit the Fair.
The safety zones were established to protect pedestrians from anything that hinders, obstructs or delays them. Thousands of people use the Gold and Blue gate entrances along with the crosswalks and sidewalks near the gates, and anything which blocks or delays pedestrians, or distracts them, or causes them to detour around or avoid something increases the risk of harm to persons or property. Any such activity or object is therefore prohibited in the pedestrian safety zones.
Ruffino sued the City of Puyallup, claiming that the safety zones violate his First Amendment rights. On August 7th, the Federal District Court denied Ruffino’s request for an injunction which would have prevented the City from providing pedestrian safety zones.
The issue in this case is whether the City’s crucial interest in keeping people safe during one of the largest and busiest events in the state takes precedence over the plaintiff’s desire to intercept crowds of people who are attempting to cross a busy highway. The court ruled that public safety should prevail.
The attendance of more than one million people at the Fair each year presents unique safety challenges. Imposing narrowly tailored safeguards, as the City has done, addresses the very real risks to pedestrians while still accommodating First Amendment activities beyond the designated safety zones.
It's important to keep these heavily used crosswalks and sidewalks clear of obstructions and available for the purpose of pedestrian movement. The safety zones are sized to be as small as possible while still serving the objective of public safety.
Final rulings in this case will occur in the future.