MIAMI – Local antiwar and social justice organizations won back their right to peacefully assemble recently when U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga issued a ruling declaring two Miami-Dade County, Fla., ordinances unconstitutional.

Altonaga granted a permanent injunction forbidding the county’s future use of the ordinances that controlled the ability of organizations to obtain permits for parades and street processions and forbade “loitering” on sidewalks, streets, and other public places.

The lawsuit was brought by the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild through local attorneys Rob Ross and Mara Shlackman, on behalf of local anti-war and social justice organizations, including Miami for Peace, South Florida Peace and Justice Network, and Haiti Solidarity.

The lawsuit, Miami for Peace v. Miami-Dade County, Case No. 07-21088-CIV-ALTONAGA, was originally brought when Miami-Dade County refused to issue the organizations a parade permit for a demonstration when President Bush spoke at Miami-Dade College in April 2007.

National Lawyers Guild attorney Ross said “This decision advances the goals of the First Amendment for political organizations throughout South Florida; the government should not have the ability to control who gets to speak in the public square in the United States.”

Co-counsel Mara Shlackman said “To keep our First Amendment freedoms, we must exercise them, and this decision hopefully will encourage more people to utilize the rights for which the American Revolution was fought.”
Linda Belgrave of Miami for Peace said, “We have to be willing to struggle for free speech to fulfill our mission of promoting peace and social justice. This decision was a huge victory in that struggle.”