Ferguson Police Delivered a Legal Blow*
In the first formal blow to be handed out to Ferguson police, the law, which compelled protesters to stand still for no longer than five seconds or risk arrest, was found to contravene First Amendment Rights.
A federal judge issued an injunction on Monday preventing Ferguson police from using the controversial “five second rule” on protesters.
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry ruled that the practice of threatening demonstrators with arrest if they did not keep moving at all times was unlawful, and violated protesters’ First Amendment Rights.
The regulation was one of many employed by Ferguson police to tackle protests against the unlawful killing of black teenager Michael Brown by white officer Darren Wilson on August 9.
The police force has been harshly criticized for the heavy-handed military tactics used against protesters.
“The practice of requiring peaceful demonstrators and others to walk, rather than stand still, violates the constitution,” Judge Perry wrote in her ruling.
“This injunction prevents only the enforcement of an ad hoc rule developed for the Ferguson protests that directed police officers, if they felt like it, to order peaceful, law-abiding protesters to keep moving rather than standing still.”
The ruling is the first formal censure to be handed out to the Ferguson police, in spite of their widely-recognized poor handling of the crisis. Attention was called to this particular police practice by legal experts who pointed out that it was an attempt to undermine the right to demonstrate peacefully.
“Vague rules that are applied in a haphazard fashion tend to increase community tension,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri told the Washington Post.
“Judge Perry’s injunction is a huge win for peaceful protesters and those who believe in the rule of law.”
Protests in Ferguson and across the state of Missouri have been varied and far-reaching.