Federal judge blocks NC city’s ordinance limiting protests

North Carolina news

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday blocked for now an ordinance issued by a central North Carolina city that requires permits for protests and limits activities of demonstrators.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles issued a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the ordinance by the city of Graham for two weeks, pending a hearing on a request for a longer injunction.

Civil rights attorneys representing the NAACP’s Alamance County chapter and eight people last week sued Graham city council members and local law enforcement leaders.

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The ordinance requires protesters to apply in writing for a protest permit at least 24 hours in advance. The ordinance also illegally restricts the size and conduct of permitted protests, the lawsuit reads.

Eagles wrote she would issue the order in part because the plaintiffs were likely to win on constitutional grounds.

A Confederate monument in front of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse in Graham, located 55 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of Raleigh, has been the target of protests for several years. Calls to bring down the statue have intensified recently since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked national protests.

The lawsuit also challenges a May 31 order by Graham Mayor Jerry Peterman that prohibited people from gathering or demonstrating on any public street, sidewalk or public property between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Another order being challenged, issued on June 27, “completely suspended individuals’ rights to free movement, assembly and speech,” the lawsuit says.

Lawyers for the Graham-area officials wrote Eagles over the weekend saying they didn’t oppose the temporary order. The city council hadn’t had time to meet formally to consider the lawsuit, the attorneys said.

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