FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – Three civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit against the city of Florence and its police chief on behalf of the nonprofit organization ‘Project Say Something.’
The National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU of Alabama and the First Amendment Clinic at Duke University have filed a lawsuit against the city of Florence and Florence Chief of Police Ron Tyler for allegedly using noise and parade ordinances to shut down protests.
The lawsuit comes two years after residents protested for several weeks to have the confederate statue outside of the Lauderdale County Courthouse removed or relocated.
David Gespass, co-chair of the Alabama chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, told News 19 that he believes the ordinances used to discourage protests are unconstitutional and infringe the people’s right to peaceably assemble.
“They’re vague,” Gespass said. “The way Florence has addressed them, they go well beyond what is necessary and what is appropriate for regulating speech.”
He added these ordinances can be broadly applied to any protest or public demonstration which is why they also consider it to be a breach of the first amendment.
Camille Bennett, founder of the nonprofit organization Project Say Something, told News 19 that she did not want to file a lawsuit until she felt she had to. She added that she has tried many ways to convince city officials and Florence Police to allow protests, but she has received very little response.
“We ran interference, we tried to collaborate with the city police department, we spent literally years negotiating and it finally came to a lawsuit,” Bennett said.
There is currently a ‘do not remove” order on the monument, which means it legally can not be moved. Bennett told News 19 that she plans to take action again once that order has been lifted.
News 19 has reached out to Florence city officials and the Florence Police Department, both said they have not yet received any legal documents and will not be releasing a statement until then.