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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Amnesty International Can Pursue Rally Case

(CN) - The 11th Circuit reinstated a lawsuit accusing Miami police of violating the First Amendment rights of Amnesty International members during a 2003 protest rally.

On Nov. 20, 2003, about a dozen members of Amnesty International gathered in front of Miami's Torch of Friendship monument to protest a meeting of the Free Trade Association of the Americas.

Police set up a cordon about 50 to 75 yards from the protest area, allegedly blocking people from entering or exiting the rally.

Amnesty claimed that its First Amendment rights were violated because "it was unable to have its message heard ... it was unable to distribute literature to the people, it was unable to obtain media coverage of its rally/demonstration ... and it was unable to speak to representatives of the media."

Officers Louis Battle and Thomas Cannon successfully moved to dismiss.

The district court said Amnesty failed to identify anyone who was prevented from joining the rally or any reporter who couldn't cover it. Amnesty also failed to overcome the defendants' qualified immunity, the lower court ruled.

The Atlanta-based federal appeals court reversed, saying the police cordon may have violated Amnesty's "clearly established" constitutional rights.

"This action is no different than if the City of Miami had given Amnesty a permit to hold a meeting in an auditorium and then barred the doors and windows such that no audience could enter and no sound could escape the building," Judge Kravitch wrote.

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