Declaring that "citizens who wish to gather in the wake of Michael Brown's tragic death have a constitutional right to do so," a federal judge said Monday that police in Ferguson, Missouri, can't command peaceful protesters to "keep moving."
U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry agreed with lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union who argued that forbidding peaceful protesters from gathering in one place violated the constitutional right to freedom of assembly. Amid the unrest in Ferguson following the killing of Brown, an unarmed teenager, police agencies could be heard barking orders at demonstrators to "keep moving" and to stay off the sidewalks. The temporary injunction doesn't bar police from breaking up unruly or violent protests, because protesters "do not have the right to endanger lives of police officers or other citizens."
The Missouri State Highway Patrol, which was put in charge of security in Ferguson during the height of the protests, said the ruling posed no issues "because it allows protesters to exercise their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble but also allows law enforcement to impose appropriate restrictions to protect the public from violence."
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— M. Alex Johnson