APN Editor Sues Georgia over Right to Protest during Pandemic
(APN) ATLANTA — On Thursday, April 23, 2020, the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia over the right to protest one’s government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit, Cardinale v. State of Georgia, 2020-CV-335449, was filed in Fulton County Superior Court and referred to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Emily K. Richardson.
Copy of lawsuit: bit.ly/3bHKCC4
The lawsuit alleges that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s April 02, 2020 Shelter-in-Place Order violates the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution and Article I, Sec. 1, Paragraphs V and IX of the Georgia Constitution, to the extent that it does not make exceptions for individuals who wish to protest their government with reasonable social distancing.
The First Amendment Freedoms of Speech, Assembly, and to Petition one’s Government for a redress of grievances are, all three, implicated in the right to protest one’s government.
Kemp’s Shelter in Place Order, Executive Order 04.02.20.01, ordered all Georgians to shelter in place, with certain exceptions.
Exceptions included grocery shopping with social distancing and getting physical exercise outdoors with social distancing.
However, because there is no exception for protesting with social distancing, the Order purports to make it illegal to protest government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Democracy is an essential activity. Our voices are more important, not less important, during a Pandemic,” APN’s News Editor said in a press release distributed Thursday, April 23.
Local television news stations were there outside the courthouse, and the news was reported by at least one station, Fox 5 Atlanta news during the 5 p.m. broadcast.
A great many precedential issues of law are at stake during this time, as it relates to the constitutional rights of Georgians and all residents of the United States.
Some of Georgia’s reliable advocates on civil liberties have been silent, if not oppositional, on the protection of constitutional rights, during this time.
Previous cases before the Supreme Court of the U.S. have considered the question of how to balance public safety concerns with constitutional rights, and support the lawsuit filed on Thursday.
For example, in Madsen v. Women’s Health Clinic, the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled in 1994 that restrictions on protesting could be no more than necessary to protect public safety. In that case, a required buffer zone to allow women to enter the clinic was found to be constitutional.
Similarly, an outright ban on protesting is argued to be unconstitutional, although narrowly tailored limits like a requirement for social distancing might pass constitutional muster if the requirements are proportional to public health interests.
More and more, individuals in Atlanta and across the nation are beginning to take their rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government more seriously.
Previously, on April 04, APN’s News Editor published an Editorial raising the issue of protesting during a pandemic, called, “Whither Freedom of Assembly?”
On Tuesday, April 07, Southerners on New Ground and others held a “car protest” outside of the Atlanta City Detention Center, calling on the jail to release more prisoners due to the dangers of concentrating prisoners in such close quarters.
The “car protest” is a new form of protest that has emerged in the uncertainty of these times that some activists say is used to show extreme social distancing.
However, activists encountered police looking to shut the protest down, according to WABE radio news.
Today, April 25, at 3 p.m., activists intend to protest at the West End MARTA Station calling on Gov. Brian Kemp to enact a statewide moratorium on rent.
Thousands, if not millions, of Georgians are at risk of eviction when judicial moratoria on evictions are lifted, and families find themselves with two to three months of rent in arrears.
“Brian Kemp has the power to enact a cancellation of rent. He has government emergency powers in times of crisis like this,” Estevan Hernandez, an activist with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“You can’t stay at home if you don’t have a home. It’s very kind of elementary: That these measures must to be taken in order to defeat COVID 19,” Hernandez said.
“We decided to do a car protest to make clear there is no way people would violate social distancing guidelines,” Hernandez said.
In California, the San Diego Police Department and county Sheriff’s Department has threatened one protest organizer, Christien Petersen, with criminal arrest if she organizes another protest during that state’s shelter-in-place order.
The lawsuit pending in Georgia is aimed at providing clarity regarding the continuity of our constitutional rights even during this emergency, and in future emergencies, so that people do not have to censor themselves for fear of criminal prosecution.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2020)