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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Free Speech

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) announced today that it is providing legal representation to Margaret Schucker, a 57-year-old disabled Raleigh resident whose right to free speech was violated when police arrested her on Oct. 27 for refusing to move her chair, which she required because of back problems, away from the Occupy Raleigh demonstration in which she was participating.

Schucker was sitting in a chair while protesting Oct. 27 on the public sidewalk along Morgan Street outside the North Carolina State Capitol, where protestors were forced to move after being expelled from the Capitol grounds. Police ordered Schucker to move her chair from the sidewalk and relocate back away from the street, to a bench on the Capitol grounds, where protestors were not allowed to demonstrate. Schucker, who was wearing a blue and white handicapped permit on her chest, told the police that she had back problems and needed the chair to participate in the demonstration. She was not blocking traffic on the sidewalk and had made sure to leave at least three feet of space for passersby, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. When she refused to move her chair, Schucker was arrested for second-degree trespassing.

“I wanted to exercise my free speech rights on the same terms as my fellow demonstrators,” Schucker said. “The only difference was that, because of my chronic lower back pain, I couldn’t stand while demonstrating and had to use a chair. As a disabled person, I have always been very aware that the sidewalk must be kept clear so that everyone may pass. If I had moved to the bench on the Capitol grounds, as the police suggested, I would have been removed from the view of passersby with whom we were trying to engage.”


WILMINGTON, NC – U.S. District Judge James C. Fox granted a preliminary injunction this morning that will prevent North Carolina from producing a proposed “Choose Life” anti-choice license plate during an ongoing legal challenge from the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. The ACLU-NCLF filed a lawsuit in September in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina on behalf of North Carolinians seeking a specialty license plate that supports a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.

“We are extremely pleased that the court sided with fairness today,” said Katy Parker, Legal Director for the ACLU-NCLF. “This case is ultimately about free speech and equal treatment for all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on abortion. The state should not be allowed to use its authority to promote one side of a debate while denying the same opportunity to the other side. We look forward to continuing our arguments in this case, and hope the court agrees that the First Amendment prohibits the blatant type of viewpoint discrimination the state has proposed through this one-sided license plate scheme.”

During this year’s legislative session, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 289, which authorized the issuance of a “Choose Life” license plate. However, the legislature repeatedly refused to authorize a plate that supported the countervailing position in favor of reproductive freedom. Six amendments were proposed in the legislature to authorize an additional new plate that stated either, “Trust Women. Respect Choice,” or simply “Respect Choice.” The legislature rejected all six amendments. As such, the lawsuit alleges that the State is engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.


RALEIGH - Organizers of the ongoing Occupy Raleigh movement recently applied for a permit to demonstrate on the grounds of the North Carolina State Capitol for eight consecutive days, ending October 30. So far their application has been denied.

In a sign of support for citizens peacefully exercising their civil liberties on public grounds, Katy Parker, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, submitted a letter October 24 to North Carolina Department of Administration Secretary Moses Carey, Jr., asking the department to "grant this permit application in the spirit of full and robust debate."

"Indeed, we encourage your Department to lessen its permit restrictions for all groups seeking permits for demonstrations on the State Capitol grounds, regardless of the content of the message of the particular group or the viewpoints espoused therein," the letter states.


On Tuesday, August 11th Session officially adjourned for 2009. The North Carolina House and Senate will reconvene on May 12, 2010 at 12 noon.

On Monday evening, the House concurred in the Senate's amended version of HB 1261 Protect Our Kids/ Cyber Bullying Misdemeanor. While the ACLU-NC was able to secure a number of changes to the bill, there are still very real free speech concerns about the bill as passed. The bill makes it a class 1 or 2 misdemeanor, depending on the accused's age, to send repeated communications to a minor, or to post real or doctored photos or post private or personal info about a minor with the intent to intimidate or torment the minor. While some of the more objectionable provisions - prohibiting communications that embarrass the minor or sending repeated insults to or about a minor - were removed by the Senate, the bill is still too vague. The Constitution demands that, in the area of free speech, the law be clear enough so that individuals are on notice of what communications violate the statute and must not permit or encourage arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. By not defining "intimidate" or "torment," the law gives unfettered discretion to law enforcement officers to determine what those terms mean to them. In the area of speech making sure that laws are clear is especially important so that people can easily discern the distinction between criminal activity and the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights.

However, on the bright side, Governor Perdue signed the Racial Justice Act in to law on Tuesday during a public signing ceremony. The new law will allow capital defendants and death row inmates the opportunity to challenge the sentence of death if they can show that race played a substantial role in them being tried capitally or being sentenced to death. If the judge agrees that race played a substantial role, she or he may reduce the sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.