Federal judge blocks Graham ordinance requiring protesters to obtain permits from police chief

GRAHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A federal judge blocked a Graham ordinance requires protesters to obtain a permit from the chief of police at least 24 hours before any planned event.

Under the ordinance, according to a lawsuit filed against Graham and Alamance County officials, the police chief would have the right to refuse to give a permit for a number of reasons -- including risking public health and safety, blocking pedestrian or vehicular traffic, or involving minors. In addition, if the police chief grants a permit to an organizer, the chief can limit that demonstration to six people within 100 feet of space and can disperse it for a number of reasons.

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Several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Alamance NAACP Branch, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Lockamy Law firm, and eight individual people challenged the ordinance in a lawsuit, claiming that it violated demonstrators' First and Fourteenth Amendments rights.

Monday, Federal Judge Catherine C. Eagles, a President Barack Obama appointee, granted the organizations a temporary restraining order against the City of Graham and Alamance County, thereby blocking the city from enforcing the ordinance, which the judge called "likely unconstitutional." In the restraining order, the judge wrote, that the demonstrators would likely face "irreparable injury" due to the loss of those amendment rights, citing a 1976 court decision.

"Our clients are relieved that they can again engage in peaceful protest in Graham without having to ask the chief of police's permission," Elizabeth Haddix, a managing attorney at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a written statement. "What remains now is to get rid of the unlawful restriction of protesters' rights to exercise their First Amendment rights on the courthouse grounds, at the Confederate monument site."

To read the full restraining order, click here.

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