30 Jun Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Protest Restriction in Senate Bill 2343
For Immediate Release
June 30, 2023
Media Contact (Mississippi Center For Justice):
Mandesha Thornton, email@example.com
Contact (MacArthur Justice Center): Cliff Johnson
firstname.lastname@example.org, (601) 940-1357
Mississippi Center for Justice and MacArthur Justice Center Represent the Plaintiffs in JXN Undivided Coalition v. Tindell First Amendment Case
Jackson, MS- Yesterday, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi entered a preliminary injunction forbidding the implementation and enforcement of S.B. 2343’s requirement that protestors obtain permission from Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell or Capitol Police Chief Bo Luckey before participating in events, including protests, on sidewalks or streets near buildings occupied by state officials or state agencies. The Court’s ruling leaves open the possibility of a motion for rehearing by the State should any future-issued rules have the potential to make the law constitutional. The Court said it was not clear what set of rules or regulations, if any, could do so. As a result of yesterday’s ruling, officials are forbidden from enforcing S.B. 2343’s permission requirement.
The law, originally set to take effect on July 1, 2023, allows these two officials to have veto authority over what protests can and cannot take place near any property owned or occupied by any state official or entity. Recent protests by such places have included criticisms of the expanded authority and actions of state officials and entities.
Represented by the Mississippi Center for Justice and the McArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, the JXN Undivided Coalition, Mississippi Votes, People’s Advocacy Institute, Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign, Black Voters Matter, and three local community organizers filed the lawsuit challenging S.B. 2343.
Jackson already operates city-wide events permitting scheme that manages the logistical needs of protesters and residents, including on sidewalks and streets next to state government sidewalks and buildings. Jackson, a majority-Black city, and Hinds County, a majority-Black County, have recently been the target of a range of legislation aimed at diluting the power and authority of local voters and locally-elected officials. These measures have included the dramatic expansion of the authority and jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety and the Capitol Police.
The JXN Undivided Coalition released the following statement: “This extraordinary win is one step in our continuing work to support—through protests, community education, and legal engagement—the right to vote, the right to flourish, and the right of political self-determination for Jackson residents. We told lawmakers this session that the protest restriction in S.B. 2343 violated our and all Mississippians’ constitutional right to free speech, and the federal courts agree. You will continue to hear and see us organizing in our neighborhoods and protesting in our streets. We look forward to others joining us and our cause: Jackson is our home, and it is not for the taking.”
“Missisissippians have a constitutional right to peacefully gather to protest, picket, or pray on public sidewalks and streets. Any burden on speech––such as S.B. 2343’s requirement to obtain the state’s written permission to do so––should not operate to keep state entities or officials from having to hear what the public has to say,” said Paloma Wu, Deputy Director of Impact Litigation at the Mississippi Center for Justice. “S.B. 2343 and H.B. 1020 are recent examples of laws that take power away from local voters and elected officials in majority-Black localities and hand it over to appointed state authorities who do not live here and are not accountable to local residents; this approach creates a high risk of abuse of power, and that power all too often is used against those who refuse to be silenced.”
Cliff Johnson, Director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, added, “At a time when so many people across the country see our courts as a source of disappointment rather than hope, we are particularly grateful for the seriousness with which the judge scrutinized this effort to further control and silence people who want nothing more than the opportunity, guaranteed by our Constitution, to express to government officials their views on the most important matters of the day. This injunction is a victory for all of us who refuse to give up on the power of protest and collective action.”
The Mississippi Center for Justice is dedicated to dismantling the state’s culture of inequity and injustice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.
The MacArthur Justice Center is one of the premier public interest law firms in the United States. The firm’s offices are located in Chicago (Northwestern Law School), St. Louis, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Oxford, Mississippi (University of Mississippi School of Law). The MacArthur Justice Center litigates a wide range of civil rights cases, with particular emphasis on reform of the criminal legal system. Additional information is available at www.macarthurjustice.org.
The JXN Undivided Coalition stands for supporting—through protests, other direct actions, and through community and legal engagement—the right to vote, the right to flourish, and the right of political self-determination for Jackson residents. The Coalition was founded to resist state takeover of the rights and resources of residents of Jackson, Mississippi, which is a majority Black and Black-led city, by the state of Mississippi and its lawmakers, who are majority-white. Community education, organizing, and public demonstrations are foundational means by which we have and will continue to impact political outcomes and the lives of our members and loved ones in the Jackson community. #JXNUndivided