ACLU of Illinois

Know Your Rights: Freedom of expression in Chicago
March 15, 2012

Can protestors block traffic or entrances to a building to draw attention to their cause?

Protesters do not have a First Amendment right to block pedestrian or vehicle traffic, or to prevent entry and exit from buildings.  For example, a federal court recently held that the Chicago police did not violate the First Amendment by arresting protesters who were impeding a heavy flow of pedestrian traffic on sidewalks near Chicago’s Soldier Field, and who disobeyed a police order to step off the sidewalk and onto the immediately adjacent gravel.   Likewise, a Chicago ordinance prohibits intentional obstruction of vehicle traffic.

Indeed, the general public has a right to freedom of movement that police must protect.  For example, to address widespread unlawful blockades of the entrances to reproductive healthcare facilities, Congress enacted the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, which prohibits the use of force, threats, or obstructions to interfere with access to such facilities.