Judge Tosses Out 25 Cases Against Omaha Protesters

The Associated Press

A Douglas County judge has dismissed cases against 25 people who were arrested and jailed for blocking traffic at a bridge during a summer racial injustice protest in Omaha.

Douglas County Judge Marcena Hendrix ruled last Wednesday that Omaha’s ordinance prohibiting the obstruction of a highway or street is “overly broad” and “clearly regulates protected speech.”

At issue was a demonstration on July 25 over the lack of charges against a white bar owner in the death of a 22-year-old Black man. James Scurlock was shot to death during unrest that followed an in-custody death of a Black man in Minneapolis.

 As part of the demonstration, protesters blocked the Farnam Street bridge. Police said the protesters failed to obtain a permit and ordered them out of the street. Protesters who didn’t comply were arrested.

Hendrix struck down a city ordinance that makes it “unlawful for any person purposely or knowingly to obstruct any highway or other public passage, whether alone or with others, without being licensed or privileged to do so.”

City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse, who will become interim city attorney on Dec. 12, said he will consider whether to appeal.

“Our position is that the ordinance is not targeting speech,” Kuhse said.

Hendrix ruled that the city’s position “is simply wrong.”


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