Protecting Your Family, Home & Business From Local Protests
The Right to Peacefully Protest and Relevant Laws: A Guide by State
As per the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, individuals in the United States have the right to assemble and peacefully protest against the government as they see fit in public spaces such as sidewalks, streets, public squares, and parks. However, the government can impose “time, place, and manner” restrictions on speech activities through reasonable limitations. For instance, a demonstration permit is often required before a large group assembles to march down a major public street or when a gathering of protesters agrees to march on Washington D.C. during a contentious presidential inauguration. These restrictions are considered “reasonable” as they are not based on the content of the speech.
Each state has its own set of protest laws that spell out the demonstration permit process and provide criminal penalties for violations of peaceful protest laws. It’s essential to note that individual cities and municipalities may have their own ordinances related to marches, demonstrations, or protests. As such, it is best to speak with a local attorney or contact the city in which one plans to protest to learn more.
This guide provides key information on protest laws by state, including demonstration permit procedures from various cities. It is worth noting that not all cities have the same requirements, even if located in the same state. Finally, while exercising the right to free speech, one should always follow the lawful order of a peace officer.
In addition to peaceful protests, targeted protests in residential areas, particularly those that target individual homes, have been a topic of debate and have resulted in court cases. Several municipalities have enacted ordinances limiting or banning such protests, and many court cases involve anti-abortion protestors protesting in front of the homes of doctors who perform abortions. While the issue presents a clash between privacy and freedom of expression, court rulings have upheld residential picketing bans that are narrowly focused and only apply to targeted picketing in front of a particular residence. However, broad bans on residential picketing have been struck down, and judicial injunctions have also been upheld in some cases.
|District of Columbia||Mayor’s Special Events Task GroupPermit needed for special eventsA special event includes parades, cultural programs, festivals, musical rock concerts, religious gatherings, block parties, community activities, and First Amendment Rights activities.”Any activity where large numbers of persons may gather” and “activities for which licenses and permits are required”Permit requirements vary by agency||D.C. Code § 22-1307||D.C. Code § 22-1321 (Disorderly Conduct)|
|Maryland||Baltimore:Department of Recreation and Parks OfficeMust file a Demonstration Application two days in advance and pay $235 non-refundable application fee||Maryland Criminal Law Code, § 10-201 (Disorderly Conduct)||Md. Code, § 3-904|
|Virginia||City of Virginia BeachSpecial Events and Film Production OfficeFile Special Event Permit between 30-60 days priorPay fee between $50-$150||Va. Code § 18.2-406||Va. Code § 18.2-411|