The First Amendment: Who can protest where?

Typically, all forms of expression are including free speech is protected at city parks, sidewalks, and streets (August 16, 2017)

After a gut wrenching weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia that lead to one person killed and at least 19 others injured, protests by right-winged groups are being planned in San Francisco and Berkley, California, next weekend, KGO-TV reports.

San Francisco’s Supervisor Mark Farrell is working with the National Parks service to come up with a safety plan for the rally planned  in Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge, KGO-TV reports.

While the events in Charlottesville  escalated beyond those protected by the U.S. Constitution’s free speech clause -- The initial rally where white supremacists met in Charlottesville to defend a confederate statue of Robert E. Lee was protected speech, said constitutional law expert and professor Leslie Jacobs at the University of Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.

In this article we ask Ms. Jacobs what rights American’s have to protest, demonstrate, and speak freely at places like universities, government buildings, parks, sidewalks, and other public places.

“Here in the United States, our Supreme Court has interpreted our free speech clause to protect very, very hateful speech,” said Jacobs. “It is not permissible for the government to put people in jail for expressing their points of view.”

The government may not restrict a person from protesting at any location solely on the basis of what they want to say, Jacobs said. However, limitations may be set  on the time, location, and manner in which a free speech activity may  be held.

Typically, prior permission must be given to protest inside government building’s like a city hall, so it doesn’t interfere with government operations.

Permits, deposits, and special fees can be asked before a large event or for events that may block traffic, use loud noise devices, or are held in special areas.

You may also need to get permission if protesting in front of a school during class hours, so it doesn’t disrupt education -- Anyone may protest on a public college campus as long as its outside, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. For more on individual colleges and university policies in Northern California click here.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also published a “Know Your Rights” pamphlet on demonstrations and protests, which can be viewed by clicking here.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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