- Associated Press - Saturday, July 4, 2020

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Civil rights groups have sued to block a North Carolina city from enforcing an ordinance that requires permits for protests.

The Herald-Sun reports that a federal judge scheduled a hearing Monday on the groups’ request for a temporary restraining order against city officials in Graham, the county seat of Alamance County.

The group’s lawsuit argues that the city ordinance violates the First Amendment because it unconstitutionally requires protesters to have a permit to march while carrying a sign. The suit also says the ordinance illegally restricts the size and conduct of permitted protests.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of the NAACP’s Alamance County branch and eight people.

“Peace and justice should belong to everyone, everywhere and all the time,” NAACP branch president Barrett Brown said in a statement. “The city’s permit requirement and periodic protest ban violate our most fundamental rights to peacefully assemble and petition our government for redress.”

A Confederate monument in front of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse in Graham has been the target of protests for several years. Calls to bring down the century-old soldier statue have intensified since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked national protests.

Graham Mayor Jerry Peterman issued a “State of Emergency” order on May 31 that prohibited people from gathering or demonstrating on any public street, sidewalk or public property in the city between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The mayor issued another order on June 27 that “completely suspended individuals’ rights to free movement, assembly and speech,” the lawsuit says.

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