Expressive Activities and Free Speech

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The Town of Blacksburg recognizes the importance of free speech, and encourages the free expression of diverse ideas, opinions and thoughts. This right is granted to all citizens under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

  • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of speech includes the right to engage in expressive activities such as assembling, demonstrating, marching, or distributing materials, as well as similar means of expressing thoughts and ideas, so long as such expressions are conducted in an orderly manner that respects the rights of others.

The town may regulate the time, place and manner for expressive activities on town owned property to ensure that these activities do not endanger the health, safety and welfare of individuals or disrupt town functions. Any scheduling or approval of expressive activities is made on a content neutral basis, consistent with First Amendment law. The town’s Picketing and Demonstration ordinance applies to all persons and groups and supplements applicable federal and state laws and regulations.

Picketing on town sidewalks

Expressive activities on town sidewalks does not require a permit. However, demonstrations or picketing that involves ten or more persons does require registration.  Submit the registration form to Captain Nathan O’Dell, at nodell@blacksburg.gov

There is no fee for expressive activities on sidewalks, but the sidewalks cannot be obstructed. 

Demonstrations on town streets or other town property

The use of a town street for a demonstration or protest requires the street to be temporarily closed. This must be coordinated with the Blacksburg Police Department. The fee is $25.00 to partially cover the costs of the Police Department closing and later re-opening the street.

Demonstrating on other town property, such as a park, is governed by Town Code § 15-101 (5), (6) and (7). For these demonstrations, different requirements apply, based on the size of the group. 

  1. Demonstrations involving more than twenty-five (25) persons requires a permit.Submit the registration form to Captain Nathan O’Dell, at nodell@blacksburg.gov. Depending on the size and scope of the event, the town may impose fees for its actual expenses associated with the demonstration or protest per Town Code §15-101 (e) (1). Fees may be waived if, as demonstrated in writing, that the applicant cannot pay the fees and that the right to expressive activity would be unreasonably curtailed without the waiver per Town Code § 15-101 (f) (1).
     
  2. Demonstrations between ten (10) and twenty-five (25) persons requires a registration, but no permit. Submit the registration form to Captain Nathan O’Dell, at nodell@blacksburg.gov.
     
  3. Demonstrations involving up to ten (10) persons requires no registration. 

Questions about demonstrations or permit can be addressed to the Blacksburg Police Captain at nodell@blacksburg.gov or the Blacksburg Town Attorney’s office at attorney@blacksburg.gov

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