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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic and ACLU of Oklahoma filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit last week in support of a constitutional challenge to a recently-enacted Oklahoma anti-protest bill, HB 1674. This bill restricts individuals’ rights to gather, demonstrate, and protest in Oklahoma’s public streets.
The Cornell Clinic and the ACLU of Oklahoma filed the amicus — or “friend of the court” — brief on behalf of Oklahoma City-based social justice organization Collegiate Freedom & Justice Coalition. The brief supports the Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP in its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of HB 1674. That court granted a preliminary injunction, delaying the effective date of HB 1674. The Tenth Circuit proceedings involve the State’s appeal of that preliminary injunction.
“HB 1674 targets progressive activists who are speaking out on social justice issues using non-violent disruption to affect change,” said Adriana Laws, President of the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition. “It is an attempt to shut down free speech and criminalize disruption as a method of protest.”
Organizations seek to stop Oklahoma’s anti-protest bill
At stake is whether HB 1674 can prohibit people from obstructing “the normal use of any public street, highway or road.” In effect, this case questions whether the Oklahoma State Legislature can bar protests in public streets.
“The freedoms of speech and assembly are integral to a representative democracy, and it is imperative that courts protect these fundamental rights,” said Olivia Foster, a third-year student at Cornell Law School and amicus brief co-author. “We hope this amicus brief will help demonstrate to the Tenth Circuit that threats like those posed by HB 1674 and the Oklahoma State Legislature are unacceptable.”
“HB 1674 is a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the type of speech at the core of the First Amendment,” stated Connor Flannery, a second-year law student at Cornell and amicus brief co-author. “We hope that the Tenth Circuit’s decision will demonstrate to the Oklahoma State Legislature and other states with similar legislation that violating citizens’ First Amendment rights will not be tolerated.”
Protecting fundamental rights against conservative government overreach
“HB 1674 is precisely the sort of state legislation that should make those who value the First Amendment shudder and precisely the sort of issue that the Cornell First Amendment Clinic is proud to challenge,” said Jared Carter, Associate Director of the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic. “Thankfully, we were not the only group interested in protecting these fundamental rights; we are excited to partner with the ACLU of Oklahoma on this important matter.”
“The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances from public streets is a historic and foundational right of American democracy.” said Megan Lambert, ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director. “The ACLU of Oklahoma supports the Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP in the fight against the state’s unconstitutional attempt to silence protesters demanding racial justice and government accountability in Oklahoma.”
The underlying lawsuit, O’Connor v. Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP, Docket No. 5:21-cv-00859-C, was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The current matter, Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP v. O’Connor, Docket No. 5:21-cv-00859-C, is pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.