In response to recent events, many individuals across the country are assembling and protesting to voice their opinion. In many cases, peaceful assembly and protest is a protected constitutional right under the First Amendment. However, there are exceptions and restrictions on the right to protest in some cases. As a result, many protesters are wondering what rights they have while protesting or assembling in North Carolina.
What is Illegal During Protesting?
There are several actions which may be unlawful while protesting in North Carolina. This includes obstructing traffic, trespassing on private or public property, or committing permit violations while assembling. In many cases, law enforcement may charge individuals who commit these actions with a misdemeanor charge. However, permits may be obtained that could allow individuals to protest in streets or other public areas.
Can my Speech be Restricted While Protesting?
Disorderly conduct, which consist of creating the threat of imminent violence or using speech to provoke a violent response, may also result in a misdemeanor charge in North Carolina. However, protestors may still be able to vehemently voice their opposition to the actions, policies, and positions of government officials, agencies, groups, and other individuals. Additionally, in many cases, protests may not be restricted based on the content of the speech or the identity of the speaker.
The Rights of Protestors in North Carolina
Despite some restrictions on the right to assemble, there are many actions available to those who wish to protest. Protestors may have the ability to distribute leaflets, counter-protest, and assemble with signs on public sidewalks without a permit. Certain types of symbolic protest, including symbolic clothing, music, or holding vigils, may also be constitutionally protected.
Do I have to Follow Curfews Implemented by City Officials?
In response to widespread protests, many city officials across the country have enacted curfews that may restrict the times when individuals can protest. This includes a curfew implemented by Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin on June 1st and a similar curfew implemented by Greensboro city officials. In many cases, those who violate curfews may face misdemeanor charges or be subject to fines.
Where Can I Find More Information on My Right to Protest?
Overall, being familiar with your rights and what restrictions can be placed on the right to assemble may be beneficial to those who wish to protest. Further information about what rights may be available to protestors can be found from trusted sources such as the American Civil Liberties Union. Individuals who may have had their right to assemble unlawfully restricted may also want to contact a knowledgeable attorney.