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ACLU challenges Decatur policy requiring permit for protests

Decatur is seeking to change when, how, and if individuals and groups can peacefully protest.

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Plans by the City of Decatur to charge protestors with disorderly conduct if they do not obtain a parade permit before protesting violates First Amendment rights according to a letter released by the ACLU.

The ACLU of Alabama Tuesday shared a letter to Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling outlining its concerns about the city’s new policy and encouraging his reconsideration. Decatur is seeking to change when, how, and if individuals and groups can peacefully protest in the River City. The mayor is seeking changes to the city’s parade policies after weeks-long protests and vigils led by Standing In Power against the unjust police killing of Stephen Clay Perkins. Perkins was shot in his driveway in September 2023 after police officers tried to repossess his vehicle. Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted former Decatur Police officer Mac Bailey Marquette for Mr. Perkins’ murder.

“The City of Decatur may not regulate speech and protest because of disagreement with the message or finding the activities inconvenient…” the ACLU of Alabama wrote. “Therefore, those who have protested and continue to protest the police murder of Mr. Perkins do not lose their constitutional protection because their topic is potentially controversial or the City of Decatur is concerned about the public’s reactions.”

The ACLU of Alabama offered its assistance in helping the city revise and adopt an ordinance that appropriately balances the First Amendment with public safety.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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