ACLU

Law enforcement officials can no longer force peaceful protesters in Ferguson to keep moving on sidewalks when they are breaking no law. Federal Judge Catherine Perry granted a preliminary injunction this afternoon in the lawsuit Mustafa Abdullah v. Saint Louis County et al., regarding the “five-second rule.”

In August, law enforcement officers began enforcing a new rule in the area where demonstrators had gathered in Ferguson after the shooting death of Michael Brown. The ACLU of Missouri called it the “five-second rule” because protesters were told they could not remain still for more than five seconds, but law enforcement invoked the rule for many things including standing still for more than five seconds, just standing still, and walking back and forth over hundreds of yards in the protest area. The rule has no statutory or regulatory reference number and has not been released to the public in print.

“The rule of law is essential to our constitutional system of government, and it applies equally to law enforcement officers and to other citizens,” wrote Judge Perry in her ruling.

“Vague rules that are applied in a haphazard fashion tend to increase community tension,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Judge Perry’s injunction is a huge win for peaceful protesters and those who believe in the rule of law.

The law firm Munger, Tolles, & Olson, LLP, is serving as cooperating counsel with the ACLU of Missouri. The original complaint for Abdullah v. Saint Louis County et al. can be found on the ACLU of Missouri website.

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