Hudson County officials sought court order to suppress speech by peaceful demonstrators against the county’s immigration detention contract, and now seek permanent restrictions on protest
The ACLU of New Jersey filed a brief in an ongoing suit concerning restraints on protesters’ First Amendment rights after elected Hudson County representatives sued protesters demonstrating against the county’s contract to hold people on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in its jail.
In the case, DeGise v. Torres, County Executive Thomas DeGise and several Hudson County Commissioners who voted to extend the contract with ICE sued protesters – whom law enforcement officers repeatedly characterized as “peaceful” and “calm” during demonstrations on the sidewalk outside the county executive’s home. The county commissioners have since voluntarily dismissed their charges; DeGise remains the sole plaintiff. Although the county has announced it will no longer contract to hold people on behalf of ICE in its jail, County Executive DeGise is asking the court to make the existing restraints on protesters permanent.
On behalf of the protesters, the ACLU-NJ's brief argues that these protest restraints severely undermine constitutional rights by limiting the right of speech, right of assembly, and right to petition the Government. The protesters are requesting that the Superior Court of New Jersey vacate current restrictions on protest, decline to issue permanent restrictions, and dismiss the case.
“The rights to speak and to protest are protected by the Constitution, and dissent has been foundational to our democracy,” said Jeanne LoCicero, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “In this case, County Executive DeGise misused his access to public resources and law enforcement to obtain a court order against his own constituents with the intent to silence opposing viewpoints. This misuse of power cannot go unchecked.”
The ACLU-NJ represents five protesters targeted by the county officials based on their viewpoint and is defending them against a temporary court order entered in December 2020, which subjected protesters to the following restraints:
- Protests can occur only between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. once every two weeks
- Protesters have to provide 24 hours’ notice to law enforcement, including the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, prior to protesting
- Protesters cannot come within 200 feet of the commissioners’ homes, and for County Executive DeGise they are relegated to a specific street corner in Jersey City that is out of sight from the County Executive’s residence
- Demonstrations are restricted to 10 people
Read the ACLU-NJ's latest brief: https://www.aclu-nj.org/files/7316/3335/1502/2021.10.01.Def._Summation.pdf
Read the ACLU-NJ's April 2021 filing: https://www.aclu-nj.org/files/4916/1955/2876/2021_04_26_DeGise_Defendants_Brief.pdf