Asheville — A District Court judge issued a decision Monday evening in Norris v. Asheville largely denying the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the claims of 15 individuals represented by the ACLU of North Carolina who were banned from Asheville parks. The City of Asheville issued these bans after Plaintiffs were charged with felony littering while protesting the City’s treatment of unhoused people. Plaintiffs regularly volunteered their time providing support and resources to unhoused people in Asheville. 

The lawsuit alleges that the policy and bans violate the Plaintiffs’ rights to due process and freedom of assembly by taking away their access to public parks without requiring notice and a meaningful hearing. The lawsuit also alleges that the bans constitute retaliation against Plaintiffs for protesting the City’s treatment of unhoused people. 

The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case in its entirety, arguing that the Plaintiffs’ claims are without legal merit. The judge denied the motion to dismiss all but two of Plaintiffs’ claims, affirming that the facts asserted by Plaintiffs are sufficient to support claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as similar state constitutional provisions. 

“The City of Asheville has stripped Plaintiffs of their right to access public spaces without convicting them of a crime or giving them notice of the ban, causing severe consequences in their personal and professional lives,” said Muneeba Talukder, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina. “In addition to preventing them from continuing their work supporting Asheville’s unhoused community members, the bans also prevent Plaintiffs from taking their children to the parks, performing job responsibilities that require park access, and further protesting the City of Asheville’s unjust treatment of unhouse people. Plaintiffs deserve to have their voices heard. We’re glad the court rejected most of the City’s efforts to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims and we will continue to push for swift restoration of their rights to visit and gather in public park.” 

Yesterday, the Defendants filed a notice saying they will appeal the denial of qualified immunity to one defendant. The motion for preliminary injunction that the ACLU of North Carolina has filed is still pending.