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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 152740 Find in a Library
Title: Controlling Public Protest: First Amendment Implications
Journal: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin  Volume:63  Issue:11  Dated:(November 1994)  Pages:25-32
Author(s): D L Schofield
Date Published: 1994
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
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Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
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United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Police officers face difficult constitutional and operational issues when tasked with the dual responsibility of maintaining public order and protecting First Amendment rights of protestors and marchers.
Abstract: Recent court decisions on the constitutionality of permit requirements and injunction-based restrictions limit the time, place, and manner of expressive activity in public places. Three general First Amendment principles guide police department decisionmaking in controlling public protest: (1) political speech in traditional public forums is afforded a very high level of First Amendment protection and blanket prohibitions of such speech are generally unconstitutional; (2) reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on public speech are permissible if they are content-neutral, narrowly tailored to serve substantial government interests, and leave alternative ways for speech to occur; and (3) speech or expressive conduct can be restricted because of its relationship to unlawful conduct. Various U.S. Supreme Court decisions have interpreted the First Amendment as creating a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and open. Therefore, police officers are responsible for balancing the legitimate need to maintain public order with protecting First Amendment rights. Police decisionmakers should obtain competent legal review of any proposed restriction on expressive activity. In particular, a particular group's past violent or disruptive conduct should be carefully documented. Police officers should also receive legal training in the basic principles of First Amendment law before being assigned the difficult task of controlling public protest. 47 endnotes and 4 photographs
Main Term(s): Police legal limitations
Index Term(s): Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Crowd control; Freedom of speech; Police responsibilities; Public order offenses; US Supreme Court decisions
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