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Looking at First Amendment issues, police preparedness as large protests planned for Bay Area

by AirTalk®

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Members of the Virginia National Guard wear body armor and carry riot shields while standing guard on the pedestrian mall following violence at the United the Right rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Northern California is bracing itself for a slew of rallies being planned on upcoming weekends that are shedding light on how much latitude cities have to take precautions against protests to prevent violence while not running afoul of the First Amendment and the tactics police use to find the right balance between keeping the peace and enforcing the law.

This weekend, protesters will gather and march on Google headquarters in nine cities, including on the company’s main campus in Mountain View, CA and in Venice here in Southern California. The supporters released their code of conduct for the so-called ‘March on Google’ following the weekend violence in Charlottesville, which condemns “violence, hatred and bigotry and all groups that espouse it, such as White Nationalists, KKK, Antifa and NeoNazis.” Organizers have distanced themselves from the so-called ‘alt-right,’ saying they are marching in support of the First Amendment and James Damore, the Google engineer whose now-infamous manifesto arguing against diversity in the workplace went viral and led to his firing.

The weekend after that, protesters with a group called ‘Patriot Prayer’ have permit to gather at Crissy Field in San Francisco. After a man plowed his car into a crowd of people during last weekend’s unrest in Charlottesville, some local officials are concerned about keeping the peace, especially if things between group members and counter-protesters get heated. Berkeley is also preparing for a rally on August 27th for a group called ‘No Marxism in America.’

How far can cities go in terms of measures to prevent violence at protests without infringing on free speech rights? What kinds of tactics do police officers employ in preparation for the rallies and during them?


Eugene Volokh, professor of law at UCLA

Bill Lansdowne, former chief of the San Diego Police Department, retired in 2014; he’s also been a police chief in San Jose and Richmond

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