GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Alamance County, N.C. Branch of the NAACP and eight individual plaintiffs in North Carolina claimed victory today after a federal judge for the Middle District of North Carolina granted their motion for a preliminary injunction, disallowing a sheriff and local officials from prohibiting protest near the Confederate monument on the Historic Courthouse grounds.
Judge Catherine Eagles ruled that Alamance County’s ban on allowing protestors on the courthouse grounds, steps, and sidewalks likely violates protestors’ First Amendment rights.
“Today’s ruling affirms the fundamental principle that public spaces should be generally open to everyone who would like to gather, protest, and speak out,” said Kristi Graunke, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “As people gather in cities and towns throughout our state to protest white supremacy and demand change, protecting these rights is more important than ever.”
The original lawsuit was filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Lockamy Law Firm on behalf of the Alamance NAACP and 8 individuals in early July.
“Today the court stood for the rights of protesters under the First Amendment,” said Elizabeth Haddix, managing attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Although under the pressure of this lawsuit, Alamance County and the Sheriff’s Office produced a new policy that was a substantial improvement over the last, we believe it's still unconstitutional and today’s ruling confirms that we are right.”
“We are glad that today the court put a stop to the County’s violation of our most fundamental rights to peacefully assemble and petition our government for redress,” said Barrett Brown, president of the Alamance Branch of NAACP. “It’s freedom and the right to protest for everybody, or freedom for nobody. I hope county officials understand that going forward.”
The plaintiffs in this case are likely to be successful on their claims that the county’s restrictions on protests on the steps of, sidewalks surrounding, and grounds of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse violate their First Amendment rights, the court said today. The plaintiffs regularly protest in the public spaces around the Square in Graham and want to protest in the traditional public forum where the defendants have prohibited protests. The court went on to say that plaintiffs would likely suffer irreparable harm absent its ruling today.