(Graham, N.C. )– A settlement agreement was reached with officials in the City of Graham in a lawsuit challenging officials’ repeated issuance of emergency declarations that limited the ability of people to move freely in Graham. The settlement agreement requires city officials to publicly justify and announce reasons for issuing future emergency orders that restrict the ability of people to protest in Graham’s courthouse square and near the city’s Confederate monument within 24 hours of issuance. It also requires officials to include information about how community members can submit comments or concerns about the orders. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Alamance NAACP and 8 individuals by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and other civil rights groups.
The agreement will be in effect for one year. This settlement only resolves plaintiffs’ claims against the City of Graham Defendants. Plaintiffs continue to litigate First Amendment claims against Alamance County and the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office.
“We will not stand by idly as officials across the country work to silence and block the voices of those engaged in peaceful protest around the cause of racial injustice and white supremacy. The agreement reached with officials in Graham, North Carolina ensures the right of people to move freely and peacefully assemble,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “What remains now is to secure protestor’s First Amendment rights violated by Alamance County and the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department. The right to protest has always been a hallmark of our democracy, a tool for promoting reform, and we will continue to work to protect this central right.”
The Alamance NAACP is an organizational plaintiff in the case. Barrett Brown of the Alamance NAACP issued the following statement after the settlement agreement was filed with the court:
“The Alamance NAACP is glad to have reached an agreement that preserves the freedom to peacefully assemble. It is critical to our mission that we secure the political rights necessary to eliminate race-based discrimination. We will never waiver in our commitment to ensure the well-being of all people. It is now incumbent on our local government to act in good faith to preserve the fundamental democratic rights of all its residents, not just the ones who are part of the majority culture.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and Lockamy Law Firm originally filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Alamance NAACP and 8 individuals in early July. The suit originally challenged an unconstitutional city ordinance that required a permit for all protests of two or more people and placed restrictions on the ability of minors to protest. The Graham City Council repealed the ordinance after plaintiffs filed the lawsuit. The original complaint was then amended to pursue claims against city and county officials, including a challenge to city officials’ issuance of emergency orders that restricted the ability of people to protest in Graham.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.
ACLU of North Carolina – Since 1965, the ACLU of North Carolina has been our state’s guardian of liberty – working in courts, the General Assembly, and communities to protect and advance civil rights and civil liberties for all North Carolinians. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with more than 30,000 members and supporters across the state, the ACLU of North Carolina is a state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. For more information, including event details, please visit acluofnc.org.