updated 8/25/2004 5:09:57 PM ET 2004-08-25T21:09:57

A judge rejected a last-minute plea from antiwar activists who sued the city for a permit to hold a massive rally in Central Park the day before the Republican National Convention, saying they were too late.

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State Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Silbermann ruled Wednesday that United for Peace and Justice was “guilty of inexcusable and inequitable delay” in bringing the case to court after months of back-and-forth negotiations over plans for the Sunday demonstration.

The antiwar coalition sued the city last week after pulling out of a deal to hold the rally on a west Manhattan highway. The event is expected to draw 250,000 people, and the Parks Department said that would ruin the park’s lawn.

United for Peace and Justice had sought an order prohibiting the city from denying its use of the park, noting that the area has been used for events including a Dave Matthews show that drew more than 70,000 spectators and performances by the New York City Opera and the New York Philharmonic attended by tens of thousands.

The group said the city violated the state Constitution by allowing cultural but not political events.

Silbermann disagreed, saying the Parks Department “appropriately applied content-neutral regulations while leaving (the protest group) with a reasonable alternate site.”

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