Federal lawsuit filed challenging SB 2343, claiming it’s a violation of free speech

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 7:35 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -By now, you’ve heard about House Bill 1020. However, you may not realize that some of its controversial provisions that originally sparked protests were removed and put into another bill. Now, that bill is facing a similar path in court.

”We think of HB 1020 as like the courts bill and SB 2343 as the policing bill,” explained Paloma Wu, Mississippi Center for Justice Deputy Director of Impact Litigation.

And like 1020, Senate Bill 2343 is also being challenged in federal court. It sets up more red tape if you want to have any event, protest or otherwise, on sidewalks or streets next to property owned or occupied by the state or a state official. Something to note, Jackson already has a permitting process for events in those spaces around the city.

“The 2343 requirements will be doubling up on top of the Jackson ordinance,” added Wu. “You know, if you want to speak to the state government, if you want to go to the state government, if you want to hand a petition to a state government official, if you want to pray, gather and pray...you now have to do two things.”

You’d need to get the Jackson-issued permit and prior written authorization from the Commissioner of Public Safety or from the Chief of the Capitol Police.

This lawsuit is being brought by several advocacy groups. They’ve all exercised their right to protest on sidewalks by state buildings like the Capitol and Governor’s Mansion in the past and have plans to do so again, some as soon as July.

“When you talk next to state government buildings, and you’re petitioning those officials, now you’re engaging in political speech, which is also the most protected speech in America,” noted Wu. “So, you’re engaging the most protected types of speech in the most protected places, which are public spaces. And this provision of SB 2343 seeks to stop all that speech unless you get prior written authorization from one of two state officials. So it’s a highly suspect clause.”

The law is set to take effect on July 1, and the plaintiffs are seeking to get it blocked before then.

The MacArthur Justice Center and Mississippi Center for Justice are representing several groups in this latest federal case. But the NAACP also has a separate pending case seeking to block this law.

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