The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is considering suing the city of Oakwood in Hall County after the city police department shut down a student protest last month.
The group sent a letter to the city Thursday, saying Oakwood police told about a dozen protesters they needed to have their signs pre-approved by the city and have other permission to protest.
The demonstrators were protesting the state “campus carry” law that went into effect July 1, which allows licensed gun-holders to carry concealed weapons on public college campuses, the ACLU said.
Sean Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, said that the city’s sign ordinance is overly broad and violates the First Amendment.
“We're talking about a dozen people carrying handmade poster signs that have to pay money and go through a process before they can do that. That is blatantly unconstitutional and that’s why we’re fighting,” Young said.
The letter said police also told protesters they needed a peddler’s license and a permit to protest on the sidewalk, which Young said wasn’t necessary.
“That’s a right that’s guaranteed to them by the First Amendment, and we should not have to get government approval every time that we want to exercise that right,” he said.
The city manager in Oakwood, Stan Brown, declined to comment on the letter and said the letter has been referred to the city’s attorney.
Eric Segall, a professor of law at Georgia State University, said governments can require certain time, place and manner restrictions, but not based on content.
“If you have 500 people going to flood Main Street and they all want to bring big, heavy signs, then I think it's perfectly reasonable for the government to say ‘you have to get the number of signs approved, or the size of the signs approved,’ or something like that, but that's not even close to this case,” he said.
Young said the ACLU of Georgia is prepared to go to court if the city of Oakwood doesn’t respond or make changes in 30 days.