A lawsuit involving a monument located at the Lauderdale County Courthouse in Florence, Alabama, alleges tactics are being used to criminalize activities connected to protesting. States like Florida have already passed bills that do so.
Project Say Something and its founder, Camille Bennett, claimed in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the city of Florence and Police Chief Ron Tyler are trying to clamp down on the protests by telling the group when, where, and how it can demonstrate against the monument. The TimesDaily also reports that the non-profit organization has tried to work with the city.
“Alabama has a long history of confronting racial injustice through peaceful demonstration, and it is imperative that we not lose that ability to speak truth to power when the situation demands it,” Bennett said in a statement.
The courthouse monument was dedicated in 1903 when Confederate descendants erected memorials all over the South to honor rebel veterans and perpetuate the “lost cause” mythology that portrayed the Civil War as being about something other than slavery. Project Say Something has held as many as 175 demonstrations in 2020, but cut back the following year because the city used its noise and parade permit ordinances to discourage them, the lawsuit said.
Florence’s police chief relocated the demonstrations to a “protest zone” away from the courthouse to shrink the potential audience, it claimed, and he threatened to issue citations. According to the complaint, the city requested $360 a day for police protection during demonstrations, so the group began hiring private security and spent about $4,100.
Co-chairman of the Alabama chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, David Gespass, stated, “it was not up to the city or Tyler to tell people “where and how to protest.”
“The First Amendment holds that everywhere from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Canada to Mexico is a protest zone,” Gaspass said.