A new Supreme Court regulation enacted Thursday banned demonstrations on its grounds just two days after a judge also barred processions and banners on the court’s grounds.
Both bans have been considered unconstitutional, as they include the banishment of picketing, speech making, marching, vigils or religious services that involve that communication of views or grievances, engaged by one or more person that might draw a crowd or onlookers.
The language is so broad that U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said it could criminalize preschoolers parading on their first trip to the Supreme Court. However, she also noted that the marshal of the Supreme Court has the authority to prescribe any law necessary for the court’s security.
Harold Hodge Jr. was arrested under a similar law in 2011 while wearing a sign that criticized police treatment of blacks and Hispanics. The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit devoted to protecting civil liberties, challenged the law of Hodge’s behalf.
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“We're going to go after it," said John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. "We're going to do what we can to challenge it.”
Whitehead added that the law was repugnant and suggested that the court at least add a “free speech zone” to the courtyard.
In its defense, the court argued that the rule was necessary to ensure the safety of people moving in and out of the building and to preserve the court’s image as immune to external influence.