In the United States, people have the right to peacefully protest under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. However, governments can limit freedom of speech, which includes requiring limitations on protesting.
In this blog, we will review the laws you need to know about protesting in Alabama.
Alabama Protest Laws: Riots
In Alabama, we have special statutes related to protesting aimed at maintaining public health and safety.
Alabama Law to Know: Alabama Code § 13A-11-4
Legal Term to Know: Riot
The Alabama law defines a riot as noisy, disorderly, and violent actions that are likely to cause a serious risk of public fear or alarm.
In the state of Alabama, a person can be found guilty of inciting a riot if he/she commands, asks for, encourages, or promotes behavior likely to lead to a riot.
What the Law Says:
- This law makes it a crime for someone to start a riot.
- If found guilty, individuals can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Alabama Protest Laws: Unlawful Assembly
Alabama Law to Know: Alabama Code § 13A-11-5
Legal Term to Know: Unlawful Assembly
Alabama law defines unlawful assembly as:
- Gathering with five or more people with the intent of starting a riot.
- Staying anywhere that a riot has started with the goal of helping the riot continue.
What the Alabama Law says:
People found committing unlawful assembly in Alabama can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
Alabama Protest Laws: Failure to Disperse
Alabama Law to Know: Alabama Code § 13A-11-6
Legal Term to Know: Failure to Disperse
The Alabama law defines failure to disperse as:
- Joining with five or more people in disorderly actions that are likely to cause grave injuries, serious inconvenience, annoyance or fear
- AND refuses to stop or leave after being asked by the police or other law enforcement
What the Alabama Law says:
This law makes it a Class B misdemeanor in Alabama if individuals commit failure to disperse.
Alabama Protest Laws: Guns at Protests
Alabama Law to Know: Alabama statute § 13A-11-59
What the law says:
- This law makes it illegal for people to carry a firearm while attending or joining in a public protest.
- Individuals can be charged with a misdemeanor for committing this offense.
An individual was arrested on this charge on June 1, 2020, at the protest held near the Madison County Courthouse.
Huntsville Protest Laws
City governments in Alabama also have rules and regulations related to protesting. In Huntsville, the City government requires protesting organizations to obtain a special event permit.
This permit is then reviewed by:
- Huntsville Police
- Huntsville Fire & Rescue
- Parking & Transportation
- Traffic Engineering Department
Huntsville Law to Know: Huntsville Municipal Code Chapter 23
What It Says:
This law governs demonstrations made on streets, sidewalks, and public places.
It says that Huntsville can require individuals to get a demonstration permit before holding a protest.
If a demonstration is held without gaining a permit, the government may take action to stop or limit the protest.
A proper permit also allows law enforcement to protect any protestors from counter-protestors that may try and disrupt the original protest.
How to Apply for a Permit:
You can find details and apply for a protest permit in Huntsville, Alabama here.