“Preferred Speech” at Issue as Judge Overturns North Carolina Governor’s Ban of NAACP Rally
The administration of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has been accused of selectively denying protesters the right to rally on Capitol grounds, prompting legal action by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
The NAACP went to court after the North Carolina Department of Administration refused to grant a permit to the organization, which wanted to demonstrate outside the state legislative building. The group and others are demanding that McCrory call a special session of the legislature to consider expanding Medicaid coverage and reversing cuts to unemployment benefits.
The plaintiffs argued that the administration was discriminating against them based on their political viewpoints—an argument Judge Allen Baddour seemed to agree with.
Baddour determined that there was no difference between the groups that want to protest cuts to unemployment benefits and the state's decision not to expand Medicaid and other demonstrations that had used the Capitol grounds, aside from the content of their speech.
"The concern the court has is that it is either discretionary or content-based," Baddour said.
Special Deputy Attorney General Don Teeter argued that the Department of Administration was merely trying to limit large protests on the grounds in order to maintain the landscaping, and that it recommended the groups use Halifax Mall, located across from the Legislative Building and other state offices.
“This has nothing to do with the content of the speech. It’s just about finding the right venue for the right number of people,” Department of Administration spokesman Chris Mears said after the court hearing, according to WRAL.com.
Baddour granted the NAACP and others a temporary restraining order that blocks the Department of Administration’s decision. But he instructed the plaintiffs to stay on the pavement on the Capitol’s south side.
Al McSurely, an NAACP attorney, said the ruling was a victory for democracy.
“They cannot say when and where and how people that he may disagree with can come and speak out,” McSurely told WRAL.com.
To Learn More:
Legal Fight to Rally at Capitol Precursor to 2014 Battle (by Matthew Burns, Mark Binker and Cullen Browder, WRAL.com)
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