(Raleigh N.C.) Graham’s city council today repealed an ordinance at the heart of a recent lawsuit filed by civil rights groups, including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, rendering unnecessary a hearing for a preliminary injunction that also was scheduled for today. The ordinance, which required two or more people exercising their right of protest to obtain a permit, was not in effect following a temporary restraining order granted by a federal judge two weeks ago.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Lockamy Law firm filed on behalf of Alamance NAACP Branch and eight individuals against Graham and Alamance County officials. The suit challenged this ordinance, as well as the mayor’s State of Emergency declaration, because they restricted the freedom of movement and ability to exercise First Amendment rights, and county and city law enforcement for restricting protesters’ access to the public historic courthouse grounds.
“We remain concerned that officials are barring protest in the traditional public forum of the courthouse square, and using so-called State of Emergency declarations to silence social justice demonstrators,” said Elizabeth Haddix, managing attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “While the repeal of the ordinance is surely a first step, the fight to uphold First Amendment rights in Graham is far from over.”
The Alamance County Historic Courthouse grounds feature a confederate monument which is the subject of renewed scrutiny following a national movement against police brutality and other forms of racism. The mayor of Graham has issued multiple State of Emergency orders since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in May — all of which have been enacted ahead of scheduled weekend Black Lives Matter protests, prohibiting any protests or permits for demonstrations within city limits. That issue, as well as the denial of protestors’ access to the courthouse grounds, remains in the pending lawsuit, which was amended on Friday to add as defendants Alamance County Commissioners, who control county property.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommitee.org.