A few days ago, I discussed the history of efforts by governments to regulate demonstrations and protests. In Part One, I discussed the roots of the doctrines — in decisions by the United States Supreme Court to protect civil rights marchers from the efforts of the likes of Birmingham Police Commissioner Bull Connor to shut them down.
Part Two: Time, Place and Manner Restrictions Fleshed Out:
Nor could one, contrary to traffic regulations, insist upon a street meeting in the middle of Times Square at the rush hour as a form of freedom of speech or assembly.
Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 554 (1965).
However, a time, place, and manner restriction will not be upheld if there is not sufficient justification or if it is not narrowly tailored. Thus, the Court held unconstitutional a total restriction on displaying flags or banners on public sidewalks surrounding the Supreme Court. United States v. Grace, 461 U.S. 171 (1983). (I’m going to leave out the complicated, and conceptually distinct, cases dealing with adult stores, porn shops and zoning laws, because they just distract from the present discussion.)
A time, place, and manner restriction will not be upheld if it fails to “leave open ample alternative channels for communication.” In 1990, Margaret Gilleo of Ladue, Missouri, wanted to express her opposition to the about-to-start Persian Gulf War, and she put up a sign in her front yard. It disappeared. She got another sign; it disappeared. When she went to the police department to complain, she was told that Ladue had an ordinance prohibiting yard signs except for certain categories of speech (for sale signs were OK, for example). She challenged this restriction, and the Supreme Court struck down the ordinance that prohibited yard signs, because “[d]isplaying a sign from one’s own residence often carries a message quite distinct from placing the same sign someplace else…,” City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43 (1994), so saying that Ms. Gilleo could just put up her sign somewhere else was not a sufficient substitute.