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Free Speech

The right to express yourself regardless of the popularity your views is basic to a democratic society. Throughout its history, the ACLU has met challenges from officials who cite reasons old and new to restrict this right. We recognize that if one person can be silenced, all of us are at risk.

This guide covers the legal protections you have while protesting or otherwise exercising your free speech rights in public places. Although some of the legal principles are firmly established, as with many areas of law, free speech law is complex and continually developing. 

Topic Resources

Published: 
Friday, October 21, 2016
Schools must refrain from trampling the free-speech rights of students, but if that’s all they do, their work is incomplete. Rather than approach student protests as something simply to be tolerated, schools should embrace the teachable moments they present.

Know Your Rights Guide: Protests

Document, Published: 
Friday, August 5, 2016

This guide covers the legal protections you have while protesting or otherwise exercising your free speech rights in public places. Although some of the legal principles are firmly established, as with many areas of law, free speech law is complex and continually developing. 

Published: 
Friday, July 22, 2016
The State Supreme Court has found that Lakewood’s law banning panhandling in certain areas violates free speech rights. The ruling is a vindication of the rights of homeless people.
Published: 
Friday, January 8, 2016
The ACLU of Washington has filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Washington Supreme Court to strike down a Lakewood ordinance that unconstitutionally infringes on freedom of speech.
Published: 
Friday, September 4, 2015
The ACLU is proud to cosponsor The Intiman Theatre’s production of The Children’s Hour, an historic play that helped establish the ACLU’s reputation for defending art and literature from censorship and marked the ACLU’s first involvement in LGBT issues.
Published: 
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
The ACLU of Washington recently sponsored a talk by Steve Shapiro, National Legal Director of the ACLU, at Town Hall Seattle on “The State of Civil Liberties at the Supreme Court.”
Published: 
Monday, June 29, 2015
Agreeing with an ACLU of Washington amicus brief, the Washington Supreme Court has reaffirmed that individuals have the right to criticize how police are handling a situation and that such criticism cannot be the basis of a criminal conviction for obstruction.  

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