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New rules allow police to assign areas for legislative protests

Posted January 15, 2015

A crowd of protesters gathers at the North Carolina Legislature Building in Raleigh on May 13, 2013, as part of a planned protest called "Moral Mondays."

— The General Assembly has established new rules governing protests and other activities that take place in the courtyard area situated between the House and the Senate chambers. 

A memo from Kory Goldsmith, the legislature's interim legislative services officer, amends the building rules to allow the General Assembly Police to designate specific areas of the courtyard rotunda area for specific uses. 

Although the new rule would apply to a number of different activities, it most directly addresses the protests that have gathered under the "Moral Monday" banner over the past two years and have led to the arrest of more than 1,000 individuals.  

"There are a lot of different uses, or a lot of different ways that area is utilized, and one of those is free speech," Goldsmith said.

Last year, a committee of lawmakers known as the Legislative Services Commission adjusted the building rules to address the Moral Monday protests. Goldsmith said that she put this latest provision in place under her authority as the staff member designated by that group.

A number of different liberal organizations, led by the North Carolina conference of the NAACP, have coalesced around the Moral Monday movement. Often during their weekly protests, individuals associated with the protest against GOP-led policies would gather in the courtyard area outside the House or the Senate chamber to sing, chant and declaim upon legislation. 

Often, those protesters would stand in front of the giant brass doors that serve as the main entryway to either chamber. 

General Assembly Police made arrests when those individuals refused to leave the building. However, hundreds of those cases have been thrown out or dismissed after judges found the legislative building rules from 2013 and 2014 were too broad. A U.S. Supreme Court case that formed the basis of the dismissals said a government entity had to specifically determine who is "actually disrupting or obstructing legitimate governmental interests."

A spokesman for the NAACP said lawyers with the group are reviewing the new building rules but did not offer further comment. 

According to Goldsmith, the new rule would allow the General Assembly Police to set aside areas for free speech where protesters or others could stand without obstructing access to the legislative chambers or other parts of the building. The goals for the new rules, she said, are to allow for free speech without disrupting legislative work or resorting to arrests.  

"We want to accommodate all possible uses if we can. That's our intent," she said.

However, even protesters who remain in a designated free speech area could run into legal problems. For example, it's possible they could be loud enough to disrupt legislative proceedings.

"The level of noise will have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis," Goldsmith said. "Nothing in that (rule) allows people to disrupt the work of the General Assembly."

11 Comments

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  • Joseph Shepard Jan 17, 2015
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    The message of "we don't care what the public thinks, we have no intention of listening to you, and we are going to force our agenda upon you" couldn't be clearer from the General Assembly.

    — Posted by heelhawk
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/share/page/1896337/?id=14359817#dlZoXt1xR6ukBPkz.99

    So the NC Legislature is to ignore the expressed desires of the majority of the voting public and cowtow to vocal minority to allow them free reign to run amok disrupting the legislature and its conduct of legitimate state business?? Now thats just cute..

  • Dan Basset Jan 17, 2015
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    If you knew anything about gerrymandering, you would know that the districts in North Carolina are absolutely NOT gerrymandered.

    But going more to the focal point of the article, the GA won't be able to 1) get into the chambers with Barber and his cronies blocking the entrances, or 2) get their work done with Barber and his cronies screaming in their ears nonstop. Time, place and manner restrictions are both fully constitutional and highly implemented throughout the country. Such restrictions are consistently upheld by state supreme courts and their equivalents. This new restriction is nothing more or less than good old-fashioned common sense.

  • miseem Jan 17, 2015

    As usual, the guidelines in the memo are very vague. Depending upon what you want to call unobstructed access, you could have a 6 foot aisle cleared out with protesters on each side, or limit any protests out of sight in a side hallway so the front line (including the ends) of a football team could walk around, in formation. A better idea is to publish a diagram showing where assembly is allowed. Then you could tell exactly what is permitted. And if another lawsuit against the NCGA is warranted. This issue was created by that celebrated (by the right wing) decision by the US Supreme Court striking down arbitrary distance limits on protests outside an abortion clinic. The right wing failed to consider that rights granted to them are also granted to other groups they may disagree with. Unfair, huh?

  • heelhawk Jan 16, 2015

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    there is.... eliminate gerrymandered districts and make it easy for the entire population to vote rather than draw the lines favorable to one party and put roadblocks in place to discourage or suppress the population likely to vote for the other party.

  • flyfish42 Jan 16, 2015

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    That noble notion is long gone now, not likely to ever be seen again.

  • Alex Branoff Jan 16, 2015
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    If only there were some way to select the people in office, so that their views were representative of the general population.

  • meganagram Jan 16, 2015

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    yes

  • heelhawk Jan 16, 2015

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    Wow!!!! "shipped to Africa"...... Should those white protesters demanding equal rights for everyone be shipped to Europe or South Africa?

  • arfamr1010 Jan 16, 2015

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    The public spoke in the election...the race-baiters should NOT be listened to, they should be arrested and shipped to Africa IMO.

  • heelhawk Jan 16, 2015

    The message of "we don't care what the public thinks, we have no intention of listening to you, and we are going to force our agenda upon you" couldn't be clearer from the General Assembly.

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