Orange County NC Website
2 <br /> ORANGE COUNTY �<���` e°u.. <br /> rA <br /> P.O. BOX 8181 <br /> Office of the County 200 S. CAMERON STREET < <br /> Attorney HILLSBOROUGH, NC 27278 <br /> °rtoo���n`'�? <br /> TO: Board of County Commissioners <br /> Renee Price, Chair <br /> Jamezetta Bedford, Vice Chair <br /> Amy Fowler <br /> Sally Greene <br /> Jean Hamilton <br /> Earl McKee <br /> Anna Richards <br /> FROM: John Roberts, County Attorney <br /> DATE: October 28, 2021 <br /> RE: Authority to regulate protests and gatherings <br /> Commissioner Hamilton requested information on how the County may impose regulations to <br /> prohibit violent or threatening behavior at rallies or protests. My response is below. <br /> The First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants the right to "peaceably assemble." <br /> Generally no rights granted by the Bill of Rights are absolute. The word "peaceably" clearly imposes <br /> a limitation on the freedom and right to assemble by requiring such assemblies be peaceful. Under <br /> this limitation law enforcement may intervene in any assembly that has become violent or poses an <br /> immediate threat to property or people. Some examples of an immediate threat include violent <br /> activities such as assaults and damage to property, and also blocking sidewalks and blocking <br /> roadways, but such blocking must go beyond simply inconveniencing pedestrians and slowing traffic. <br /> Immediate threats also do not include breaking up public assemblies because nonparticipants are <br /> annoyed or angry (Coates v. City of Cincinnati, 1971). It is generally accepted that subject to certain <br /> limitations governments may regulate the time, place, and manner of assemblies. <br /> Imminent Danger and Incitement of Lawlessness Restrictions <br /> In order to adopt legislation that addresses potential conduct at future assemblies the United States <br /> Supreme Court established a high standard for government officials, the "clear and present danger" <br /> standard. In addition to a legislation that addresses a "clear and present danger," government may <br /> adopt legislation to address the "imminent incitement of lawlessness." I will note that North Carolina <br /> law currently addresses both of these issues. The North Carolina statute is enforceable by any law <br /> enforcement officer having jurisdiction in the area of the incident. <br /> §14-288.2. Riot; inciting to riot; punishments. <br /> (a)A riot is a public disturbance involving an assemblage of three or more persons which by <br />