Baton Rouge, LA (KPEL News) - Twitter is abuzz over a bill making its way through the Louisiana Legislature that some believe is a violation of First Amendment rights. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution allows for peaceful assembly.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

Louisiana House Bill 737 would forbid anyone from staging a protest or other assembly outside someone's house under certain circumstances. It reads:

Proposed law provides that no person shall petition, picket, demonstrate, or assemble with other persons near an individual's residence in a manner which interferes, disrupts, threatens to disrupt, or harasses the individual's right to control, use, or enjoy his residence.

It defines the term residence to mean a, essentially, a place where someone lives, and imposes a maximum fine of $500 for each day that the law is violated.

The Louisiana House approved the bill with an 85 to 18 vote on April 9. The Senate has referred it to a judiciary committee.

HB737 is making its way through the Louisiana Legislature at the same time that the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to render an opinion on another protest case in the state, McKennon vs. Doe, dealing with the First Amendment.

A Baton Rouge police officer was seriously injured during a Black Lives Matter protest when participants blocked a highway and then started hurling rocks and concrete at officers. He is suing the protest organizer who says he is protected by the First Amendment and cannot be held responsible for the actions of the people who attended.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that an organizer can be held liable if they were aware of or suspected that a protest would turn violent. Their opinion was that the protestor should have known a violent confrontation was likely when participants blocked the road, a violation of Louisiana law.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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Not surprisingly, the ACLU is displeased with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to make a decision. They issued a statement on Monday that says, in part:

After today’s news, people should not be afraid that they’ll face a ruinous lawsuit if they exercise their rights to protest. The Court just last year affirmed that negligence can never be the governing standard when it comes to speech...

Truthfully, the whole case from start to finish takes a well-trained legal mind to understand. It's like watching a tennis match with hundreds of screaming fans upset by the play calls on each side.

On its own, the proposed Louisiana law may not seem like a big deal. Add in the action of the Supreme Court, and the social media buffet is plentiful.

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