Lawful Picketing & Protesting Inside City Limits
This page explains the City of Killeen's position on several of the common legal concerns that arise when citizens desire to stage a protest or picket line. It does not cover every possible question that might arise. It does not replace either your obligation to know the law, or your right to obtain specific legal advice from a private attorney of your choice.
You Can Do It
You do have a right to protest, assured by both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions. However, the right is not unlimited. The U.S. Supreme Court allows a City to set reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on protests. So long as you exercise your rights in a lawful manner (one which does not violate the legal rights of others to go about their business while you protest), then you should not experience any legal difficulties from the City.
Do Not Trespass
The first amendment does not allow you to trespass.
- If the site is private property (business or residence), then you must remain on the public sidewalk or if no walk, then in the public right-of-way. The City Attorney's Office, City Engineer, and Police Department will be glad to assist you in locating the right-of-way if you have any doubt. If the landowner next door to the site consents to your presence on his/her land, then you may be there also.
- If the site is a publicly owned facility (example: library or park), then you must remain on the publicly owned property (sidewalk, parking lot, lawn, right-of-way, etc.), unless otherwise posted, and not stray onto neighboring private property (without consent of the owner). You cannot demonstrate inside a public building because that's disruptive.
Do Not Obstruct Others
The first amendment does not allow you to obstruct a sidewalk, driveway, parking lot, street, or right-of-way from use by others who desire to drive or walk through that place. It is a criminal offense to obstruct access to a public building, street, or sidewalk.
Do Not Interrupt Others
The first amendment does not allow you to interrupt or obstruct a meeting of a governmental body, a hospital, or a religious service. It is a criminal offense to do so.
Do Not Breach the Peace
The first amendment does not allow you to engage in disorderly conduct as defined in state law (examples: loud cursing, offensive gesture, threats, fighting, etc., which tend to incite a breach of the peace). It is an offense to do so; therefore, constrain yourself to express your message in a lawful manner.
Comply With the Assembly Ordinance
If you have 25 or more people involved, then you will need to request and obtain a permit. Applications and a copy of the procedures are available at the City Secretary's Office. Allow two weeks for processing. Remember, if you have 24 or fewer people at the protest site, then you do not need a permit.
It is not required that you give the City advance notice of a protest or picket line. However, if you will let the City Attorney's Office know the date, time, and location of the activity, then we will be glad to advise the Police Department that there will be an activity; that you have received a copy of these rules; and that you will be engaging in a peaceful activity. Do not be surprised if an officer is present at your activity; this is as much for your protection (and to assure the free exercise of your rights), as it is in the general interest of the public. If the officer asks you about your activity, please patiently explain it to the officer (he/she may not have gotten the word). There is a legal advisor (assistant city attorney) on-call at all times to assist the Police Department staff in any further legal questions about the conduct of your protest or picket.
Your observance of these rules will achieve the Constitution's balance between the rights of the many and the few, so that everyone may go about their business, be it as a protester or a non-protester.