Free Speech

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of expression. Whether it’s the right to protest, freedom of the press, or religious liberty, the ACLU of Ohio is here to defend against government intrusion into our personal, political, and religious lives.

The Right to Photograph or Videotape Police

Since 9/11, a disturbing pattern of innocent people being harassed for photographing or videotaping police has emerged across the nation. In recent years, the ACLU and photographers groups have challenged restrictions against documenting police actions, and courts have agreed — ...

Since 9/11, a disturbing pattern of innocent people being harassed for photographing or videotaping police has emerged across the nation. In recent years, the ACLU and photographers groups have challenged restrictions against documenting police actions, and courts have agreed — what happens in public can be recorded by the public.

Unfortunately, some law enforcement still attempt to restrict the rights of photographers under the guise of “security” and a mistaken belief that photography is somehow connected to terrorism. In addition, many police fear improved technology that can often launch a small video to Internet infamy through viral marketing and social networking. The ACLU created a landing page for those interested in knowing their rights to photograph and videotape police. Read more about it here.

SLAPP Suits – Chilling Free Speech through the Courts

Update 05.12.14: The ACLU of Ohio works to protect speech on a variety of fronts. While this often means defending an individual against the government, the ACLU has also become involved in SLAPP suits, or strategic litigation against public participation. In ...

Update 05.12.14:

The ACLU of Ohio works to protect speech on a variety of fronts. While this often means defending an individual against the government, the ACLU has also become involved in SLAPP suits, or strategic litigation against public participation. In these cases, corporations or individuals sue a member of the public, often alleging they were defamed, in order to intimidate the defendant into keeping quiet.

In one case, Eric Deters v. James Jay Schifrin, Cincinnati-area attorney Eric Deters is suing the publisher of The Whistleblower, an electronic newsletter that reports on Cincinnati area politics. Deters has filed similar lawsuits against several public officials who questioned his legal knowledge. In October 2011, the ACLU announced that Deters and Schifrin agreed to a settlement. Both parties withdrew their lawsuits, and Schifrin agreed to include the details of the incident, as well as a response from Deters, in a special edition of the Whistleblower.

The ACLU also took up another case, Habeeb v. Smith, where two police officers sued a former state representative for her negative comments after they shot and killed a teenager.

Most recently, the ACLU successfully defeated a classic SLAPP suit in Robert E. Murray, et al. v. The Huffington Post.com, Inc. In September 2013, Mike Stark, a journalist and Huffington Post contributor, wrote an article titled “Meet the Extremist Coal Baron Bankrolling Ken Cuccinelli’s Campaign,” which was published by the Huffington Post. The article was highly critical of Murray Energy Corporation, and its owner, Robert E. Murray.  In response to this article, Mr. Murray initiated a SLAPP suit alleging defamation, false light and invasion of privacy against the Huffington Post and Mr. Stark. On November 27, 2013, we filed a motion to dismiss, and on May 12, 2014, our motion was upheld and the lawsuit was dismissed.

Check out our legal docket for more information about these and other free speech cases.

ACLU Opposes Ohio Law Criminalizing “False” Political Speech

On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. The ACLU has filed a legal brief in this case on ...

On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus.

The ACLU has filed a legal brief in this case on behalf of the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, an anti-abortion group that planned to run a 2010 ad against Congressman Steve Driehaus, accusing him of supporting taxpayer funded abortion.

Driehaus responded by filing a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission, arguing that SBA List violated Ohio’s law against making false political statements. SBA List then filed a federal lawsuit, challenging the state law as an unconstitutional restriction on its right to free speech.

After losing his 2010 reelection bid, Driehaus withdrew his complaint. This prompted the lower courts to dismiss the SBA List lawsuit, claiming the group could not longer challenge a law that was no longer being used against it.

SBA List appealed to SCOTUS, arguing that it should still be allowed to challenge the law because it was used to suppress free speech before an election and could be used against other groups in the future.

The ACLU agrees.

This is the question before the high court: Should SBA List be permitted to move forward with its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s law against false political speech?

At the ACLU, we believe people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, regardless of their political persuasion. The government is not the arbiter of truth.

We do not share SBA List’s views on reproductive freedom, but we will continue to defend its right to express those views without interference from the government.

Defending Toni Morrison

At a meeting on September 10, 2013, Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar labeled Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye “pornographic” and ...

At a meeting on September 10, 2013, Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar labeled Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eyepornographic” and called for its removal from state teaching guidelines for high school students. Board member Mark Smith went a step further, calling the novel part of “an underlying socialist-communist agenda.”

The ACLU had a few things to say about that. Wilmington College Professor Laura Struve, Ph.D also penned a blog post for Plunderbund, explaining what’s wrong with banning The Bluest Eye.

Hundreds of people from all over the world followed suit, sending letters to Terhar and Smith, asking them to stop promoting the censorship of important works of literature like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

Our voices were heard! On September 26, The Ohio Department of Education announced that The Bluest Eye will not be erased from the Common Core text list.

Preparing for Protests

Our nation was founded on political dissent and the right to protest remains one of our most fundamental constitutional rights. Protest groups are beginning to emerge around the state, many affiliated in some way with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that ...

Our nation was founded on political dissent and the right to protest remains one of our most fundamental constitutional rights.

Protest groups are beginning to emerge around the state, many affiliated in some way with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that has captured national headlines. On October 5, 2011, the ACLU of Ohio released an advisory, giving these protesters basic information about their rights, the limitations of those rights, and what to do if those rights are violated. The ACLU of Ohio has also published know-your-rights cards for protesters, in both single and four-up format.

In November 2011, two protesters were arrested while attempting to enter the Toledo City Council chambers with protest signs, despite the fact that city council had no official policy banning signs. The ACLU of Ohio held a press conference, calling on Toledo City Council to adopt an official policy and to show respect for the first amendment. Instead, Toledo City Council voted to ban all signs from city council meetings, a move the ACLU called “disrespectful” to Toledo residents.

Later that same month, The ACLU of Ohio contacted the City of Toledo a second time, following up on complaints from the Occupy Toledo movement about unclear city permit policies and calling on city leadership to set clear, constitutional rules for public demonstrations.

In December 2011, Montgomery County made news with its passage of new rules limiting free speech at Dayton’s Courthouse Square. The ACLU of Ohio spoke out against the rules and is monitoring the situation, as these new restrictions appear to target the Occupy Dayton movement specifically.

Flash Mobs, Social Media, and the First Amendment

“Flash mobs” are groups of people, organized via social media, who suddenly assemble in a set location. Some of these gatherings have resulted in violence or destruction of property, and as a result, a number of Ohio communities are proposing ...

“Flash mobs” are groups of people, organized via social media, who suddenly assemble in a set location. Some of these gatherings have resulted in violence or destruction of property, and as a result, a number of Ohio communities are proposing prohibitions for social media use that may result in criminal activity.

These proposals are overbroad, potentially criminalizing protected speech, and are unnecessary, as the criminal acts that cities seek to punish are already crimes.

In July, 2011 ACLU of Ohio expressed concern over one such proposal, passed by Cleveland City Council after a large group of “unruly teenagers” caused a disturbance at a Cleveland Heights street fair. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson promptly struck down the legislation, his first-ever veto.

In December, Cleveland City Council again passed legislation targeting social media. The ACLU called the legislation a waste of time and resources and once again called on Mayor Jackson to use his veto power. However, the Mayor took no action and the allowed the ordinances to become law. The ACLU of Ohio continues to monitor the results of this unwise legislation, as well as a curfew in Cleveland Heights that was passed as an emergency measure to prevent flash mobs, but has yet to be relaxed.

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of expression. Whether it’s the right to protest, freedom of the press, or religious liberty, the ACLU of Ohio is here to defend against government intrusion into our personal, political, and religious lives.

The Right to Photograph or Videotape Police

Since 9/11, a disturbing pattern of innocent people being harassed for photographing or videotaping police has emerged across the nation. In recent years, the ACLU and photographers groups have challenged restrictions against documenting police actions, and courts have agreed — ...

Since 9/11, a disturbing pattern of innocent people being harassed for photographing or videotaping police has emerged across the nation. In recent years, the ACLU and photographers groups have challenged restrictions against documenting police actions, and courts have agreed — what happens in public can be recorded by the public.

Unfortunately, some law enforcement still attempt to restrict the rights of photographers under the guise of “security” and a mistaken belief that photography is somehow connected to terrorism. In addition, many police fear improved technology that can often launch a small video to Internet infamy through viral marketing and social networking. The ACLU created a landing page for those interested in knowing their rights to photograph and videotape police. Read more about it here.

ACLU Opposes Ohio Law Criminalizing “False” Political Speech

On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. The ACLU has filed a legal brief in this case on ...

On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus.

The ACLU has filed a legal brief in this case on behalf of the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, an anti-abortion group that planned to run a 2010 ad against Congressman Steve Driehaus, accusing him of supporting taxpayer funded abortion.

Driehaus responded by filing a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission, arguing that SBA List violated Ohio’s law against making false political statements. SBA List then filed a federal lawsuit, challenging the state law as an unconstitutional restriction on its right to free speech.

After losing his 2010 reelection bid, Driehaus withdrew his complaint. This prompted the lower courts to dismiss the SBA List lawsuit, claiming the group could not longer challenge a law that was no longer being used against it.

SBA List appealed to SCOTUS, arguing that it should still be allowed to challenge the law because it was used to suppress free speech before an election and could be used against other groups in the future.

The ACLU agrees.

This is the question before the high court: Should SBA List be permitted to move forward with its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s law against false political speech?

At the ACLU, we believe people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, regardless of their political persuasion. The government is not the arbiter of truth.

We do not share SBA List’s views on reproductive freedom, but we will continue to defend its right to express those views without interference from the government.

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Westboro Baptist Church’s Right to Protest

On March 2, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that a family could not sue for damages against the Westboro Baptist Church for protesting near the funeral of a loved one. The case originated out of Maryland, where a ...

On March 2, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that a family could not sue for damages against the Westboro Baptist Church for protesting near the funeral of a loved one. The case originated out of Maryland, where a lower court awarded the family $5 million for emotional distress caused by the church’s protest. While the decision acknowledged the family’s grief, the court recognized that we cannot abandon core First Amendment principles designed to protect even the most unpopular speech on matters of public concern.

More information about the case is available here. Learn more about why the ACLU defends the speech of unpopular groups here.

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of expression. Whether it’s the right to protest, freedom of the press, or religious liberty, the ACLU of Ohio is here to defend against government intrusion into our personal, political, and religious lives.

Download our “Know Your Rights” Publications

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio ...

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio has produced these “Know Your Rights” publications on such topics as free speech, voting rights and police practices among other civil liberties issues.

Our list of downloadable publications is available at www.acluohio.org/KYR

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of expression. Whether it’s the right to protest, freedom of the press, or religious liberty, the ACLU of Ohio is here to defend against government intrusion into our personal, political, and religious lives.

ACLU Releases Protester Advisory

CLEVELAND—With demonstrations occurring in Cleveland, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has released a protester alert. This advisory gives basic information about the rights of protesters, the limitations of those rights, and what to do if these rights are ...

CLEVELAND—With demonstrations occurring in Cleveland, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has released a protester alert. This advisory gives basic information about the rights of protesters, the limitations of those rights, and what to do if these rights are violated.

“We have an important and constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest in this country,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “This advisory will help protesters anticipate and, if possible, avoid confrontations with law enforcement.”

The ACLU protester advisory also makes clear the difference between protected speech and civil disobedience, in which protesters choose to break the law, and face potential arrest in order to make a point.

“The ability to protest about important civic matters is core to our First Amendment rights, and must not be impeded by law enforcement or other government officials,” said Link. “At the same time, protestors should be educated on their rights and what they can and cannot legally do.”

Recently, several groups in the city, many affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, have organized protests of the trial verdict of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo and the investigation of the death of Tamir Rice.

For more information, visit www.acluohio.org/protest.

Protesters: Know Your Rights!

Although the right to peacefully protest is constitutionally protected, the definition of “peaceful protest” may differ from person to person. Here are some valuable tips on what to do if you are confronted by a police officer or another public ...

Although the right to peacefully protest is constitutionally protected, the definition of “peaceful protest” may differ from person to person. Here are some valuable tips on what to do if you are confronted by a police officer or another public official during a protest.

Bookmark this page! You can also download a wallet size card for printing. If you have an encounter with the police, you can protect yourself and your rights. If you believe that your rights have been violated, please contact an attorney.


What You Need to Know

     Your Rights as a Protester

     Limitations on Speech

     Limitations on Action

     If You Are Arrested


Your Rights as a Protester

  • What you say to the police is always important. What you say can be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you—especially if you “bad mouth” an officer.
  • You are required to provide your name, address, or date of birth to a law enforcement officer upon request.
  • You can be arrested for refusing to identify yourself to an officer.
  • You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your car.

Go back to list


Limitations on Speech

  • The government can limit speech by imposing “time, place, and manner” restrictions. This is most commonly done by requiring permits for meetings, rallies, and demonstrations.
  • The First Amendment does not protect speech that incites violence, is obscene, or is threatening
  • It is a federal crime to threaten to harm the President, the Vice President, or a major candidate for either office.

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Limitations on Action

  • If you endanger others through the manner in which you choose to protest, you can be arrested. A protest that blocks traffic is illegal without a permit.
  • You do have the right to distribute literature, chant, and engage passersby in debate, but you do not have the right to block a building entrance or physically harass people.
  • Protesting on private property is not protected by the law.
  • Do not interfere with, touch or verbally antagonize the police.
  • Avoid carrying any drugs or weapons. If you happen to be arrested you could face additional charges for their possession.

Go back to list


If You Are Arrested

    • Do not run or resist. It may result in additional charges.
    • The whole process, from arrest to release on bail, should take about 24-36 hours.
    • The police will ask you for basic biographical information and will take your fingerprints and photograph, unless you have been charged with a very minor crime.
    • You will then be interviewed by a court agency so that bail can be assessed. You do not have to answer their questions, but giving accurate information will speed the process.
    • You can hire an attorney to represent you at the arraignment and present arguments regarding bail.
    • The judicial officer will set bail according to several factors (local connections, seriousness of the crime, how many other protesters have been arrested, etc.).
    • There are three main types of crimes that you could be charged with. They are, from least to most severe, a minor misdemeanor, a misdemeanor offense, and a felony offense.

Go back to list


Go to our Protest page
, where we have a number of additional resources.

Protesting? Know Your Rights

The Rights of Protesters

...
Protesting? Know Your Rights
Protesters in the street

As Americans, we have the right to peacefully protest. Our nation was founded on political dissent, and joining others in peaceful assembly is vital to a thriving democracy.

Although protesters are clearly protected by the First Amendment, challenges from law enforcement to the right to protest have come in many forms, including mass arrests, illegal use of force, curfews and even corralling protesters into so-called “free-speech zones.” Increasingly, new surveillance technologies are used to collect information on an individuals’ activities by their association with or proximity to a given protest. Even without active obstruction of the right to protest, fear of police intimidation can chill public expression and result in self-censorship.

The ACLU monitors the government’s respect for this foundational right. We intervene and advocate—through police departments, the courts, the state legislature, and Know Your Rights presentations and materials—so everyone’s right to protest is respected.

Protesters! You Have Every Right To:

  • Peacefully assemble to exercise your First Amendment right to protest.
  • Protest in public spaces, such as streets, sidewalks, and parks, as long as you aren’t blocking traffic.
  • Protest without a permit in response to recent events.
  • Distribute literature, chant, and engage passersby in public spaces without a permit.
  • Photograph or videotape the police.

Learn More About Your Right to Protest


Visit Our Free Speech and Police Practices Issue Pages.

 

Check out our newest resource, the Ohio Civil Liberties Snapshot

Download our “Know Your Rights” Publications

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio ...

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio has produced these “Know Your Rights” publications on such topics as free speech, voting rights and police practices among other civil liberties issues.

Our list of downloadable publications is available at www.acluohio.org/KYR

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Protesters: Know Your Rights

Blog Post » Inspiring a New Generation of Activists

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of expression. Whether it’s the right to protest, freedom of the press, or religious liberty, the ACLU of Ohio is here to defend against government intrusion into our personal, political, and religious lives.

Blog Post » Inspiring a New Generation of Activists

Save the Date » Movies with a Mission: The Puffin Collaborative Film Festival

The ACLU of Ohio is proud to be among the sponsors of the ...

The ACLU of Ohio is proud to be among the sponsors of the Puffin Collaborative Film Festival, to be held from September 21 – 25, 2014.

Here is some additional information about each evening’s events:

Night One – Monday, September 22, 2014
Films that celebrate the stories of people with disabilities

Night Two- Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Stories about the past and future of American life

Night Three – Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Characters taking a stand to protect the environment

Night Four – Thursday, September 25, 2014
Showcasing the changing landscape of American culture with two inspiring and iconic films

 

 

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of expression. Whether it’s the right to protest, freedom of the press, or religious liberty, the ACLU of Ohio is here to defend against government intrusion into our personal, political, and religious lives.

Blog Post » 2016 Is Only a Year Away…

Download our “Know Your Rights” Publications

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio ...

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio has produced these “Know Your Rights” publications on such topics as free speech, voting rights and police practices among other civil liberties issues.

Our list of downloadable publications is available at www.acluohio.org/KYR

The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of expression. Whether it’s the right to protest, freedom of the press, or religious liberty, the ACLU of Ohio is here to defend against government intrusion into our personal, political, and religious lives.

Check out our newest resource, the Ohio Civil Liberties Snapshot