NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Press Club is sending a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio chiding his staff about setting up a separate area for protesters.

The club, made up of journalists from across the city, unveiled the letter Thursday.

It criticizes the mayor’s aides for keeping protesters about 50 yards from de Blasio — a so-called “free speech zone” — during a Friday event in the Rockaways.

It calls the practice contrary to the concept of free speech and “a mockery of our basic rights.”

“If this is your idea of free speech as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you are badly mistaken,” the letter read. “Free speech, like freedom of the press, are part of the liberties guaranteed to us since the founding of the nation.

“We demand that you inform your aides that suppression of the press is against the law of the land and the policies of your administration. It violates the basic principles of democracy and of the time-honored tradition of openness at City Hall.

De Blasio was there to reopen a boardwalk destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. He’s not especially popular in that neighborhood after he arrived there late for a moment of silence commemorating victims of the 2001 American Airlines Flight 587 crash in November and for a St. Patrick’s parade in March.

City Hall officials said the zone was created so those who might be carrying signs wouldn’t block the view of others.

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