A federal judge is giving Alamance County officials and the city of Graham “a short delay,” before a preliminary injunction to change access to the grounds of the Historic Courthouse in Graham if they so choose, according to an opinion written by the court. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles said in her opinion that banning protests from the grounds of the Historic Courthouse in Graham is likely a violation of First Amendment rights, according to the opinion.
The short delay before a preliminary injunction is an effort to give the county time to work on new regulations, according to the opinion. Eagles gave the parties until Aug. 12 to submit more evidence.
“It is the defendants’ obligation to act within the bounds of the Constitution,” Eagles wrote, “And the county defendants cannot prolong an unconstitutional practice because the plaintiffs have not told them how to conform to the Constitution.”
Eagles denied the plaintiffs’— which includes the Alamance County chapter of the NAACP and eight protesters — second request for a temporary restraining order against Graham and Alamance County officials, which would allow protestors to gather much closer to the Confederate monument.
The Sheriff’s Office has deemed certain areas around the monument as “free-speech zones” where protestors are allowed to assemble. Other areas have been restricted.
Eagles also asked the plaintiffs to be more specific about what protestors should have access to.
“There is no evidence in the record that the monument itself or the flower beds are a public forum,” Eagles wrote.
Following the original lawsuit, an amended complaint was filed, which argues that the city of Graham is still restricting protest rights.
The new complaint argues that officials are obstructing protesters from gathering at the courthouse in Graham. The complaint cites the state of emergency orders as a limitation on the rights of protesters.
“It is highly doubtful that the Sheriff’s total prohibition on protests on the sidewalks, grounds, and steps of the courthouse, should it continue, will survive scrutiny,” Eagles wrote.
Elon University faculty and students have protested for the removal of the Confederate monument. The day before the protest, Mayor of the city Graham Jerry Peterman issued a state of emergency after the temporary restraining order on the now-repealed ordinance requiring permits to protest.