The Northam administration’s decision announced at the end of the day today to begin enforcing the Lee Monument anti-speech regulations first proposed by former Governor McAuliffe in 2018 and made permanent in 2019 is ill-considered and deeply disturbing. As we said in questioning the constitutionality of these regulations when they were first proposed and when they were made permanent, “Lee Monument has always been used as a public park and a public gathering space which has routinely held large events including protests, rallies, Easter Parades, and live music events. […] The U.S. Supreme Court has said that ‘the nature of a place, the pattern of its normal activities, dictate the kinds of regulations of time, place, and manner that are reasonable.’”
In the case of the Lee Monument, the “pattern of normal activities” of late has only heightened the status of the grounds as a public forum where people increasingly have come to express their views and petition the government for redress of their grievances. The Northam administration’s decision to shut down this forum completely in the evenings and to require permits six to 45 days in advance of any activity involving 10 or more people is neither reasonable nor narrowly tailored to protect either property or the public. This action will serve only to escalate the tensions between protesters and police and will do nothing to advance either free speech or public safety.