Do I need a permit before I engage in free speech and assembly activity?
Not usually. However, certain types of events require permits. Generally, these events are:
- A march or parade that does not stay on the sidewalk, and other events that require blocking traffic or street closure
- A large rally requiring the use of sound amplifying devices; or
- A rally at certain designated parks or plazas
Many permit procedures require that the application be filed several weeks in advance of the event; however, the First Amendment prohibits such advance-notice requirements from being used to prevent rallies or demonstrations that are rapid responses to unforeseeable and recent events. Also, many permit ordinances give a lot of discretion to the police or city officials to impose conditions on the event, such as the route of a march or the sound levels of amplification equipment. Such restrictions may violate the First Amendment if they are unnecessary for traffic control or public safety, or if they interfere significantly with effective communication with the speaker or demonstrator’s intended audience. A permit cannot be denied because the event is controversial or will express unpopular views.