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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, 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.  
Published: 
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
In June of 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden famously leaked knowledge of systematic government spying to journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Over the next year, Greenwald assembled his insights about government spying and Snowden into a book titled No Place to Hide. On a book tour, he recently spoke to a packed house at Seattle’s Town Hall.
News Release, Published: 
Monday, May 12, 2014
Today, the ACLU of Washington (ACLU) and Columbia Legal Services (CLS) voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit after successfully getting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release hunger striking detainees from solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington.  The ACLU and CLS had filed this lawsuit on April 2, 2014 to prohibit ICE from retaliating against detainees at the NWDC who engage in First Amendment protected activities by placing them in solitary confinement.
Published: 
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
A man whom Sunnyside police arrested for videotaping a SWAT team has received an $8,000 settlement, reports the Yakima Herald-Republic. After the man posted a videotape of his arrest on YouTube, police requested the charges be dropped and the man sued for the violation of his rights.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, April 4, 2014
Federal immigration authorities have released hunger strikers from solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. The action came after the ACLU-WA and Columbia Legal Services sued U.S. Immigration and Enforcement for retaliating against hunger strikers. 
News Release, Published: 
Thursday, April 3, 2014
The ACLU-WA and Columbia Legal Services are seeking a court order to prohibit federal immigration authorities from punishing  hunger strikers by confining them isolation cells at the NW Detention Center. 
Published: 
Friday, December 20, 2013
The ACLU of Washington recently succeeded in advocacy that reaffirmed The Militant’s First Amendment right to inform and share its opinions with incarcerated individuals.

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