September 19, 2015
This brief article first presents a question by a person who was planning to demonstrate in the public forum in America. The question was asked on AVVO, a website where people can ask legal questions and get online answers from attorneys. Following the question is my answer which the asker names as the best answer. At the end is the link to the AVVO page where one can see the question and answers from various attorneys, including my answer.
The question was:
“I am planning a legal protest. I will be in Grove City, Ohio. I will be in a public area (sidewalk). I would like utilize my rights to the fullest extent of the law and I do not want to go to jail. Other than my 1st amendment right secured by the United States Constitution, what other laws protect me? Can you please cite case law or ORC sections? Do I need to procure a permit? I have a written statement prepared for any police officers I may encounter. It invokes my right to remain silent and refusal to answer verbal questions. Thank you ladies and gentlemen!”
My answer was:
“The First Amendment protects speech in the public forum. The First Amendment is the highest man-made law in America and only God’s law is higher. All lower laws (State, county, and city) are subject to the First Amendment. As you will see on some of the resources linked to below, even state constitutions, county and city ordinances usually reflect First Amendment rights.
“Speech includes the spoken word and signs you carry. Depending upon the noise ordinance of the city, you may not be allowed to use amplification (such as a megaphone).
“You cannot violate legitimate laws such as laws obstructing a highway, sidewalk or passageway, commit criminal trespass, etc., but the police may not use those laws to stop your legitimate speech. Some of the links below are to resources which tell you exactly what the Supreme Court has said about these matters.
“Police will sometimes falsely arrest people. It is a good idea to have someone videotape all your activity from beginning to end, so you will have proof of the facts. Police are trained to “constructively bend the truth” (lie). so as to cover their own illegal activities. For more on this, see the following resources:
“https://jeraldfinney.wordpress.com/contents/books/street-preaching-in-america-is-it-legal-tract/ (go there and click link). This goes over the hierarchy of law on this matter, including relevant Supreme Court caselaw.
“https://jeraldfinney.wordpress.com/miscellaneous/jerald-finney-legal-issues/ (The links to my brief in the Steve Drake case will be very helpful.)
“https://jeraldfinney.wordpress.com/b-messages-from-pastor/street-preaching/december-25-2013-an-unfolding-street-preaching-battle-in-northfield-minnesota/ (real life run ins with the law by those speaking in the public forum.)
“https://jeraldfinney.wordpress.com/b-messages-from-pastor/street-preaching/ (More helpful information.)
“I send you the above links because I don’t have room in this limited space to appraise you of your rights, how to deal with the police, etc. The resources will be very helpful to you. I have settled many problems where police try to interfere with or prevent speech in the public forum.
“It is best to alert the appropriate law enforcement agencies, the city attorney, and maybe even the mayor and city council members before the date of your speech. E-mail them and/or send certified letters RRR. Call them beforehand. Let them know that you will be speaking in the forum and that your speech is protected. Let them know that should the police interfere with your speech, falsely arrest you, etc. that the individual police person(s) who violate your rights, the police department, the chief of police, the mayor, the city council members and the city can be sued for damages.
“Some cities and their police and other peace officers know that speech in the public forum is protected in America. Others don’t and they have to be educated.”