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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Protest Ban Upheld as Anti-Loitering Law Fails

(CN) - Though a Florida community properly banned protests within 50 feet of homes, police cannot restrict loitering within the same space, the 11th Circuit ruled Thursday.

The ruling comes in a federal complaint Winnifred Bell, Allura Lightfoot and Deanna Waller brought in October 2012, less than a month after Winter Park, Fla., banned "targeted picketing within 50 feet of a residential dwelling."

Bell and the others said Ordinance 2886-12 infringed on their First Amendment right to freedom of speech, but a federal judge quickly dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim.

A three-judge panel with the Atlanta, Ga.-based federal appeals court partially reversed Thursday, finding the law's loitering provision facially unconstitutional and invalid.

Section 62-77 allowed Winter Park police to enforce "no loitering" signs residents posted within 50 feet of homes, but the court deemed the provision overbroad.

"Additionally, 62-77 provides no standards for enforcement, leaving city officers free to enforce the prohibition on the basis of the content or viewpoint of an individual's speech," Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote for the panel. "We therefore hold that 62-77 is unconstitutional."

Section 62-79, which prohibits protesting within 50 feet of a home, meanwhile was properly upheld as content-neutral, the court found.

"Section 62-79 does not regulate speech on the basis of the content or viewpoint of the speech," Tjoflat's 13-page opinion states. "Rather, it regulates the time, place, and manner in which plaintiffs can speak."

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