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Protests on the Supreme Court Grounds Still Not Allowed
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Supreme Court protests

Summary: While some may not understand the importance of the Supreme Court to remain a neutral place, the courts have upheld the rule that no protests are allowed on the property.

Protests are not allowed outside the U.S. Supreme Court building. The closest they can be to the “Equal Justice Under Law” building is the sidewalk. A federal appeals court panel has upheld the 1949 law.


The Supreme Court is supposed to be the ultimate protector of constitutional rights, the guarantee of protest and free speech. A law in 1949 made it unlawful to demonstrate on the high court’s grounds in order to make sure the building remained neutral.

The concern is that allowing a party to protest their views outside the building may give the public the idea that the building and the justices inside were swayed to one viewpoint. “Allowing demonstrations directed at the Court, on the Court’s own front terrace, would tend to yield the opposite impression: that of a Court engaged with – and potentially vulnerable to – outside entreaties by the public.”

The 50-foot-wide sidewalks surrounding the court can be filled with protestors of controversial cases busy chanting, bullhorn blaring, and flag waving. The Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that the sidewalk would be allowed for protesting.

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Critics find the ruling hypocritical. The Court allows protestors to demonstrate their view outside abortion clinics but the same can’t be done outside their building. For a building to represent freedom of speech, especially political speech, the fact that they can’t do so in front of the building may not seem fair.

A U.S District Judge had sided against the law in 2013, stating “it cannot possibly be consistent with the First Amendment for the government to so broadly prohibit expression in virtually any form in front of a courthouse, even the Supreme Court.” The Supreme Court followed with their own rules.




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