Lawful Protests

Moral Monday protests have been a hot topic recently in NC. The ACLU has been leading these protests at the state capital since April. Most of the protests have been conducted peacefully with the most recent protest seeing 150 protestors arrested. NC Governor Pat McCrory has deemed these protests “unlawful”. So what exactly makes a lawful protest or unlawful protest? Here are some helpful guidelines.

  1. Your free speech cannot be restricted- the first amendment ensures that. However, police and government officials are allowed to place restrictions on first amendment rights in regards to “time, place, and manner” in a nondiscriminatory and narrow way.
  2. You can demonstrate and protest in public forums; like streets, sidewalks, and parks. It can also be permitted in plazas in front of government buildings if the government has opened it up to similar speech activities and on private property as long as the property owner permits it and you obey the owner’s rules. You can still be arrested for trespassing if you don’t obey the rules set down by the government or the property owners.
  3. If you are planning on a large rally or a march/parade that may block traffic or use amplifying devices, you must apply for a permit. If you are holding the protest in some parks and plazas you may require a permit for these as well. These permits are usually required to be filed several weeks in advance and, depending on the route and nature of the event, may allow local police or officials to impose conditions on the event.
  4.  Violence or property destruction are never protected under the First Amendment and if you are ordered to disperse by the police, you must obey or you may be arrested. Even peaceful civil disobedience has been prosecuted legally, keep this in mind before you organize or attend a rally/demonstration.

In the case of the Moral Monday protests, Governor McCrory praised the Moral Monday participants for remaining non-violent but noted that the protestors were arrested because they refused to disperse.

If you plan on participating in, or organizing, a demonstration or a protest, the ACLU recommends that you seek the counsel of an attorney before even attending the rally as well as coordinating with friends and family if you believe you may be arrested. Remember to cooperate with the police, and ask for a lawyer if you are arrested.

To learn more, visit the ACLU’s website here: http://www.aclu.org/

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