Judge tosses cases involving Omaha protesters who blocked bridge

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protesters blocking bridge
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. 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. (Courtesy: Omaha Police Department)

OMAHA, Neb. — A 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.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Douglas County Judge Marcena Hendrix ruled Wednesday, Nov. 25, 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 George Floyd’s death 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.”

Interim City Attorney Matt Kuhse said he will consider next week whether to appeal.

“Our position is that the ordinance is not targeting speech,” Kuhse said. “Nor is it void (because of) vagueness.”

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