Under Pressure from ACLU of Arkansas, City Officials Revise Unconstitutional Parade Ordinance

Affiliate: ACLU of Arkansas
July 20, 2004 12:00 am

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ACLU of Arkansas
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LITTLE ROCK, AR– The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas announced today that Nashville city officials have revised their policy on parade permits after complaints by the ACLU charged that a city ordinance violated residents’ First Amendment rights.

“Had this ordinance not been amended, Nashville would have violated the Constitution’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech, to ‘peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,'” said ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar. “These rights are the cornerstones of a free society.”

The original ordinance, which was passed in response to a peaceful demonstration held by 100 African Americans after Nashville native Nicky Hill died in police custody, required at least 30 days notice to obtain a permit for 25 or more people to gather in a manner that would disrupt normal traffic patterns.

“If the people believe the government has done something wrong and they want to express their views about it, they shouldn’t have to apply for a permit and wait 30 days to do it,” Sklar said. “That is not the American way.”

After receiving complaints from Nashville residents, the ACLU conferred with city attorney James Graves about changing the language of the ordinance. The city ultimately proposed an amended ordinance, which requires only two business days notice, and permits a parade or gathering upon 24 hours notice in the case of news or affairs, which are occasions for a “spontaneous” demonstration. With these modifications, the ACLU accepted the city’s latest proposal. It was enacted as ordinance #808 on June 22.

“We’re glad Nashville authorities decided to avoid a court battle and fix the ordinance, and thereby protect the free speech of their constituents,” said Grif Stockley, an ACLU of Arkansas staff attorney.

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