Your Right to Take to the Streets

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Working in my office in downtown Seattle last Wednesday afternoon, I was pleased to hear the sounds of chanting and looked out to see people peacefully marching down the street holding signs. As spring inches its way to Seattle, I hope we will see more of the same, with people bringing their varied messages to the streets, sidewalks, parks, and squares all around our city.

The ACLU-WA has done a lot of work to ensure that the right to demonstrate in public places is honored in practice.  And we have published a basic guide on “street speech” rights.

We encourage you to brush up on your rights when you are going to hit the streets. Remember, streets, sidewalks and public parks are the places our courts describe as the “quintessential traditional public forum.” That means they are places where speech belongs. Unless you will be blocking traffic on the street or sidewalk, you shouldn’t need advance reservations from the government to go out and have your say (i.e., no permit is required).  

And the ACLU-WA definitely wants to hear from anyone who encounters problems in seeking to exercise this basic and essential form of freedom of expression.

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