First Amendment Free Zone in America? Cops Threaten Anti-Common Core Groups Participating in Christmas Parade


"Apparently there are First Amendment free zones in America," says Johnnelle Raines who is an anti-Common Core activist. She was shocked when she was told by the event planner that her group could not be in the Easley Christmas parade in South Carolina. The event planner abruptly told her, "We do not allow political messages in our parade, whatsoever. I will get the police chief over."

Raines told Joshua Cook that she already paid to be in the parade and the application was approved (see document here). There is no mention of any group restrictions in the application. Raines told Cook, "I feel discriminated against and my 1st Amendment rights have been violated." Raines believed that she was singled out because of her opposition to Common Core.

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Raines refused to leave. She was threatened by city police who told her to remove the signs they were holding. Raines asked the officer, "What is political about this sign? Can you tell me what's political about that?" "I cannot, but I'm not the one who is making that decision" the officer said.

Raines asked, "Can you cite the law that keeps us from bringing a sign in the parade? Is there a law?"

The officer said, "It's a city event. We can dictate and put in restrictions of what we allow in the parade."

Activist Jim Haggert told Cook, "I was prepared to be arrested and thought I was for a moment, but then the officer walked away. Because the children in our group were so upset we decided to go ahead and walk in the parade without signs."

Haggert said that his First Amendment rights have been violated before.  "One of the assistant principals of a Greenville county school called the cops because I was passing out anti-common core literature on a sidewalk in front of a school."

Cook called the City of Easley police department but no one was available for comment.

"This experience has taught the children here today a valuable lesson of how important free speech really is," Raines said.    

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