UPDATE: The ACLU confirms that you don’t need a permit for a protest, just don’t jump in front of cars;
The ACLU of South Dakota notes says though that protesters do not need a permit to protest on sidewalks or streets. Communications Director Janna Farley said that does mean that marchers can’t block or impede traffic in doing so.
“You don’t need a permit to march on streets or on sidewalks, as long as the marchers aren’t obstructing car or pedestrian traffic.” Farley said.
I was impressed that Thum decided to have a press conference last night after the rally last night. It’s a step forward for transparency.
I had heard nothing about the rally until I ran into a couple of people yesterday afternoon telling me they were going to a pro-choice rally at Lyon Park. I never guessed that it would draw more than a couple dozen people. One person who attended told me late last night that he guessed around 1,000 folks were at the rally (he worked in public safety for over 20 years and knows how to count large crowds). That number was verified by Thum this morning on KELO AM.
The rally was organized thru private messaging and the police were aware ‘something’ might happen.
I am all for protesting and upholding 1st Amendment rights.
Where it gets ‘murky’ is what the city ordinance says about events like this;
ASSEMBLIES, PARADES AND PROCESSIONS
For the purposes of this subchapter, the following definitions shall apply unless the context clearly indicates or requires a different meaning.
ASSEMBLY. Any block party, demonstration, rally, gathering or group of 25 or more persons, animals or vehicles, or a combination thereof, having a common purpose, design or goal, upon any public street, sidewalk, alley or other public place, which assembly substantially inhibits the usual flow of pedestrians or vehicular travel or which occupies any public area, but does not rise to the definition of a special event.
PARADE. Any scheduled walk, demonstration, procession, motorcade consisting of 25 or more persons, animals or vehicles, or a combination thereof, having a common purpose, design, designation or goal upon any public place, which does not comply with normal and usual traffic regulations and controls.
(1) Any of the following activities involving 25 or more persons, animals or vehicles, or a combination thereof, open to the general public taking place on public space that involves a temporary and exclusive use of public space involving a substantial deviation from current legal land use or legal nonconforming use and may include, but not be limited to:
A. Amusements or carnivals;
C. Music by way of sound amplification;
E. Dramatic or theatrical productions;
H. Runs, walks, triathlons and bicycle races or rides that will not comply with the normal or usual traffic regulations or controls or are likely to impede, obstruct, impair or interfere with free flow of traffic;
I. Any activity involving the sale of merchandise, food or alcohol;
J. Any activity making use of structures not already present on the public space such as stages, booths, canopies, awnings, risers, bleachers, fences, partitions, stands or similar constructions; and
K. Any activity taking place on public space that may require for its successful execution city services to a degree significantly over and above that routinely provided under ordinary circumstances, as determined by the special events committee.
SPECIAL EVENTS. Shall not include the use of public space by governmental agencies acting within the scope of their authority.
SPONTANEOUS EVENT. An unplanned or unannounced coming together of persons, animals or vehicles as described in this section, which was not contemplated beforehand by any participants therein and which is caused by or in response to unforeseen circumstances or events and which is neither a parade nor as assembly, as defined in this section.
(1992 Code, § 38-133) (Ord. 70-87, passed 8-31-1987; Ord. 55-03, passed 6-16-2003; Ord. 39-12, passed 6-19-2012)
Definitions and rules of construction generally, see § 10.002
(a) Permit required; assembly. No person shall conduct, manage or participate in any assembly without a valid permit or outside the provisions of a permit as provided in this subchapter.
(b) Permit required; special event. No person shall hold, sponsor, aid or cause to be held a special event without a valid permit or outside the provisions of a permit as provided in this subchapter.
(c) Exceptions. The provisions of this subchapter shall not apply to or affect funeral processions.
I am not sure that a spontaneous rally loosely organized thru private messaging classifies as a planned event. I certainly don’t believe a protest or rally needs to have a permit if they are gathering in public places. I think that is a violation of 1st Amendment rights. However, I do agree with Thum that once you start blocking streets it is no longer a rally on public property. Remember, the SFPD does not make the rules, the city council does and they have to enforce them.
I would advise anyone who plans a rally like this in the future to stay out of the street, it doesn’t help your cause when police have to drag you off the street. I think it was only a handful of people who were arrested and MOST of the people at the rally stayed on the sidewalk.
As the authoritarians go on their march in DC to turn our country back 100 years you are going to see a lot more events like this.