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Can government impose a financial charge on exercising free speech rights?


Some local governments have required a fee as a condition of exercising free speech rights, such as application fees, security deposits for clean-up, or charges to cover overtime police costs. Charges that cover actual administrative costs have been permitted by some courts. However, if the costs are greater—such as requiring a large insurance policy—because an event is controversial (or a hostile crowd is expected), the courts will not allow it. Also, regulations with financial requirements should include a waiver for groups that cannot afford the charge so that even grassroots organizations can exercise their free speech rights. Therefore, a group with limited financial resources cannot be prevented from engaging in a march simply because it cannot afford the charges the city would like to impose.