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Circuit Upholds Picketing Ordinance In Raleigh, N.C.

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The 4th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of a picketing ordinance in Raleigh, N.C., that requires demonstrators to notify city officials before staging public protests.

The ruling rejects the First Amendment claims of Dennis Green, who picketed outside a Promise Keepers event at the RBC Center with 10 other protesters in 2003.

A security officer booted the group from a public sidewalk because its members had not notified the city about the protest, in violation of Raleigh's picketing ordinance.

Green claimed the ordinance violated his right to free speech and peaceful assembly.

But the notice requirement imposes a minimal burden on protesters, the court ruled, because city officials have no discretion to deny any protest request - they must grant a receipt of notice immediately. Demonstrators may notify city officials in person, by phone or via fax, without giving advance notice, completing a lengthy application or paying fees.

"Given these minimal impositions, we cannot hold that the notice requirement burdens substantially more speech than necessary to further the city's interest in protecting law enforcement officers, motorists, pedestrians, the picketers themselves and those accessing businesses near the site of a demonstration," Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the unanimous panel.

The court rejected his other arguments, saying he failed to show that the picketing ordinances are unconstitutional.

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