Before barring demonstrations, police must understand demonstration permit caselaw

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Mar 15, 2012 Before barring demonstrations, police must understand demonstration permit caselaw

In the United States, people are presumed to be permitted to demonstrate in public fora, including, but not limited to, parks, the side of streets, and, when a permit is obtained, marches. Demonstration permits generally cannot be a prerequisite for demonstrations absent a statute or regulations requiring permits, with their issuance eliminating unbridled discretion in the hands of the people reviewing the demonstration permit applications. Thomas . Chicago Park Dist., 534 U.S. 316 (2002). 

When I was still working at a corporate law firm in 1991, I learned the unpleasant way about permitting law, when my friend and I were threatened with arrest if we continued, permitless, to hold our antiwar signs outside the Capitol while the Senate debated whether to authorize George Bush I to go to war in Iraq. Then we went to obtain a permit, and got shunted over to a remote, barely-visible area near a parking lot. So Bush, I, got his way — obtaining auhotrization to go to war in the Gulf, but we sere denied a reasonable permit.

Regardless of one’s position on the eternal abortion debate, on First Amendment grounds I congratulate the pro-life demonstrators who recently reached a $385,000 settlement after police denied their right to demonstrate on the roadside in Harford County, Maryland, without a permit, and then arrested and  strip searched some of them. What did the police expect to find in conducting a strip search, which ordinarily includes a visible and/or digital check of one’s anus (yuck! and completely invasive)? More picket signs?

Here is more about the settlement. Here is more background, and some video footage from before the arrests.

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