Protesting is a Non-Essential Activity: Unconstitutional During 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?
…so one would argue that everyone must do everything within their power to ensure that more people do not die from the disease which this virus causes. That includes properly washing hands; ensuring the surfaces are sanitized, disinfected and clean; maintaining a distance of at least six feet from the nearest person; and staying at home unless going out is absolutely necessary.
Section 3 on page 9 of the aforementioned executive order in North Carolina states the following:
For the reasons and pursuant to the authority set forth above:
A. Section 1(a) of Executive Order Nos. 117 and 120 is rescinded and replaced as follows:
A mass gathering is defined as any event or convening that brings together more than ten (10) persons in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. This includes parades, fairs and festivals.
A mass gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers. It also does not include any COVID-19 Essential Business or Operation as defined in this Executive Order.
Notwithstanding the above, and in an effort to promote human dignity and limit suffering, funerals are permitted to include no more than fifty (50) persons, while observing Social Distancing Requirements to the extent practicable.
Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 166A-19.30(a)(2), -19.30(c) the provisions of this section shall be enforced by state and local law enforcement officers.
The remainder of Executive Order Nos. 117 and 120 continue to be in effect.
The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States is as follows:
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.
The goal of the Raleigh Police Department is to help residents remain as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic by reminding them to observe the Wake County Stay-at-Home Proclamation and the Governor’s Executive Orders. In these unprecedented times and unusual circumstances, both the Governor and the County have declared a state of emergency. Under these current and temporary declarations, protesting is not listed as an essential function.
The Wake County District Attorney is the individual who decides charging language for failure to adhere to the Governor’s Orders and the Wake County Proclamation, when charging is appropriate, and what charges individuals may face for violating either one of these orders. However, as a law enforcement agency, the Raleigh Police Department is bound to carry out the regulations stipulated in the Executive Order and the Wake County Proclamation.
But more important is the health and wellness of all who live in our community, including the officers who must engage in circumstances such as these. We simply want everyone to be safe during this very serious public health crisis.
Any questions related to the arrest at the protest at the State Capitol should be directed to the arresting agency, the State Capitol Police.
One can logically assume that the assembly of people to peacefully protest is included as to what is not permitted as stated in section 3 of Executive Order No. 121 from the state of North Carolina; but one can also argue that assembling to peacefully protest is not specifically stated in that executive order, either — even though the official statement from the Raleigh Police Department suggests otherwise…
…and one can further logically assume that freedom of speech is protected by the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States; but one can also argue that the first amendment covers members of the House of Representatives — and not a governor of a state — who shall make no law prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble; and it does not mention any exceptions to emergencies such as a pandemic.
One of the first words when I think of travel is freedom; and freedom in general is critically important to me in terms of quality of life. Freedom of speech and expression is paramount to a civilized society and to the openness of new ideas. It is the main reason why I do not censor any comments — regardless of content, other than obvious “spam” — posted here at The Gate in its history of almost 14 years…
…but does the statement of “protesting is a non-essential activity” by — or certain actions as a result of — the police department in Raleigh violate the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States; or is it necessary in order to eviscerate the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in an effort to save as many lives as possible?
I believe that if the people who were involved in the aforementioned protest were doing what they could to prevent the 2019 Novel Coronavirus from spreading — maintaining a distance between themselves as one example — and were expressing themselves in a peaceful manner, then they have an absolute right to assemble to express their thoughts…
…but what if those protesters were flagrantly violating Executive Order number 121? Even if law enforcement officers do what they can to uphold the law, does a police department — or any legal authority, for that matter — have an obligation to quell a peaceful assembly?