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Recent US Supreme Court ruling benefits 'Moral Monday' protesters

Posted August 11, 2014

More than 70 protesters were taken to jail during the weekly "Moral Monday" protests at the North Carolina General Assembly on July 22, 2013,, bringing the total number arrested in the legislative session to 925.

— A U.S. Supreme Court case involving protests at abortion clinics has led to the dismissal of charges against five people arrested last summer during a demonstration at the General Assembly.

District Judge Joyce Hamilton ruled in a written order filed Monday that General Assembly police "failed to explore less restrictive means" to quell the protest at the Legislative Building than arresting dozens of people.

More than 900 people were arrested last summer during the weekly "Moral Monday" demonstrations against a legislative agenda that the protesters said hurt poor and disadvantaged North Carolinians.

The protests have been more subdued this year, with only a few dozen arrests, and a judge threw out some of the new rules a legislative commission adopted to deal with the protests, ruling they were too broadly written.

Likewise, Hamilton ruled that the arrests last year by General Assembly police weren't tailored narrowly enough to deal with any disturbances in the Legislative Building.

She cited a recent Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a buffer zone Massachusetts had set up around an abortion clinic to keep anti-abortion protesters at bay. The court said a state must determine who is "actually disrupting or obstructing legitimate governmental interests" and not infringe on the free speech rights of others.

The five "Moral Monday" protesters weren't causing a disturbance, Hamilton ruled, and the General Assembly police simply rounded them up with others without first warning the group to move or be quiet.

"The defendants in the present case, who were not creating or contributing to any disturbance while attending the assembly, were subject to an unconstitutional order to disperse that imposed serious burdens on the defendants' protected constitutional rights," the judge wrote. "The state has not shown that less restrictive measures would have failed to achieve the government's interests."

As a District Court judge, Hamilton’s ruling has no effect on any pending cases involving General Assembly protesters.

Acting Wake County District Attorney Ned Mangum said he plans to press forward with other cases this week.

"This ruling applies to the five cases Judge Hamilton heard a week or 10 days ago. We will have more cases are set to go (Tuesday) and Wednesday, and we'll see how they turn out," Mangum said.

12 Comments

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  • 42_wral_mods_suck_i'm_gone Aug 13, 4:40 p.m.

    all the cases should be dropped

    — Posted by dsdaughtry

    In those that are not dropped the defendants should ask for a jury trial!!

    — Posted by recontwice

    AMEN. Jury nullification anyone :) Mr. DA spend your prosecutorial time on REAL crime.

  • common tater Aug 13, 11:01 a.m.

    So we're comparing an abortion clinic to the legislature? It's ridiculous to say they can't disperse an entire crowd, they have to be selective. But since it's much different this year, at least the arrests had some impact.

  • dennis8 Aug 12, 1:26 p.m.

    Why does the Supreme Court have to keep telling our government officials what is constitutional?... View More

    — Posted by jwsawyer

    Apparently because the GOP here in NC and many of its supports are unable to tell if what they are doing is Constitutional. FYI, the job of SCOTUS is to make that determination.

  • clintoflannagan Aug 12, 12:48 p.m.

    Another example of a court opinion from a group of liberal, activist Justices.

    Oh, wait........

  • recontwice Aug 12, 9:17 a.m.

    all the cases should be dropped

    — Posted by dsdaughtry

    In those that are not dropped the defendants should ask for a jury trial!!

  • sinenomine Aug 12, 8:22 a.m.

    STYMIEINDURHAM is right in suggesting that freedom of speech is moribund on college campuses. I'm told they have a "free expression tunnel", for instance, at NCSU. I've got news for today's college students - the First Amendment made the entire country a "free expression tunnel" in 1791. If you believe otherwise you're the one going against a two hundred year history of freedom of expression, not me.

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Aug 11, 6:42 p.m.

    all the cases should be dropped

    — Posted by dsdaughtry

    -

    I agree. I wouldn't give them one more moment of press other than what the press has already so graciously given them. It wastes taxpayer dollars, money desperately needed elsewhere, and publicizes their little game.

  • stymieindurham Aug 11, 5:35 p.m.

    Freedom of Speech is one of the foundations of our democracy.
    ================================================
    Try telling this to the college campuses and to obama's IRS!!!

  • dsdaughtry Aug 11, 5:34 p.m.

    all the cases should be dropped

  • welfarequeen Aug 11, 4:58 p.m.

    Set up a buffer zone outside and don't allow them into the building - period!

    — Posted by kdnole

    Freedom of Speech is one of the foundations of our democracy. The wonderful thing about America is that we have the right to protest, assemble, and make our voices heard. Who owns the government buildings? We do. Who pays the legislators? We do. “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resigns his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.” Henry David Thoreau

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