This is how the 1st Amendment dies a slow death


Gaston County protest ordinance is riddled with problems:

Under the new ordinance, groups of 25 or more people who wish to protest on county property must submit an application to the county at least 24 hours in advance.

The applications would be reviewed by the county sheriff and sheriff's deputies, who would have the power to approve or deny them, and could revoke a protest permit "at any time."

That last part is a doozie. All it would take is one rookie deputy who doesn't like the looks of somebody, and the permit is revoked. At that time, any delays in "dispersing" could be met with violence and arrests, all in the name of "keeping the peace." How do I know this? Because it's happened several times in my County. It's also not a coincidence that both Alamance and Gaston Counties have all-Republican Boards of Commission. More from the Gaston District Attorney:

"Are you asking law enforcement to arrest the first 24 people who were not breaking the law until somebody joined them?" he said. "You can't enforce that."

He also said he was concerned that the sheriff and sheriff's deputies have the power to approve or deny applications.

Under the ordinance, the sheriff and the sheriff's deputies aren't supposed to base their decisions on political, social, or religious grounds, or on the "content of the views expressed," but Bell said that still presents First Amendment concerns and "runs the risk of the government overstepping First Amendment rights to free speech."

He also said he disagreed with the ordinance on a personal level.

"My personal belief — and I am a First Amendment Libertarian — is that if someone wants to picket me, they should not have to get a permit to do it," he said.

Slightly bright side: Even if Gaston deputies arrest otherwise peaceful protesters, this guy would (probably) not prosecute them. Probably.