updated 5/19/2004 5:38:09 PM ET 2004-05-19T21:38:09

Anti-abortion groups filed a federal lawsuit against the city Wednesday, claiming the process to obtain permits for demonstrations outside the Democratic National Convention will infringe on protesters’ First Amendment rights.

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The Christian Defense Coalition, Operation Rescue Boston and Operation Rescue West claim the process is overly restrictive because groups that want to demonstrate must submit their applications at least 14 days before the proposed event.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said groups often don’t learn of events at which they wish to demonstrate until a few days before.

The July 26-29 convention is expected to draw thousands of demonstrators.

“What this permit process is saying is, if we find out about any event after July 11th, we will not be issued a permit,” said Mahoney.

He said the city is trying to “sanitize” the convention by attempting to restrict protesters.

“Political conventions should be a time to celebrate free speech and the First Amendment, not crush free speech and the First Amendment,” Mahoney said. “They are making people who are committed to free speech jump through hoops.”

A new three-step permitting process requires demonstrators to submit an application to the Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, obtain permits from other city departments, and then win final approval from the licensing office.

All applications must be submitted at least 14 days before a proposed event.

The lawsuit names the City of Boston and Mayor Thomas Menino as defendants. A spokesman for Menino did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Other groups have complained that proposed plans for demonstration zones are too far away from the FleetCenter convention site.

U.S. District Judge William Young has scheduled a hearing Friday to hear arguments on the coalition’s request for a preliminary injunction.

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