Fri April 11, 2014
Capitol Square as Public Forum
The ACLU of Virginia wants to prevent a situation like that in 2012 where 31 protesters were arrested for straying outside a designated area on the state's Capitol Square. The organization is now calling on Governor McAuliffe through a letter to completely revise the regulations that limit citizens from expressing their views to lawmakers and other public officials.
The ACLU's Rebecca Glenberg says most recently, the Family Foundation was denied a permit to gather for a National Day of Prayer event at noon because the requested time slot is restricted. Glenberg notes that the ACLU’s letter lists seven restrictions, which she says are not only vague, but also violate free speech. She says one is confining events to just one small place on the Capitol grounds.
And the ACLU opposes requiring even small groups to get a permit to assemble—without exception. The organization also says officials can deny permits based on the content of speech and other considerations that it calls “unlawful.” Glenberg says Capitol Square is a quintessential public forum. These restrictions, she says, undermine Virginians’ right to speak out and protest their government.