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Lawyers disagree on constitutionality of keeping protesters 300 feet from funerals

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- As nine families plan funerals for the victims of the Emanuel A.M.E. shootings, many Lowcountry leaders and members of the the community have taken steps to protect the families.The cities of Charleston and North Charleston both passed ordinances mandating that protesters have to stay 300 feet from the property of the funeral location."We're not denying anyone the{}right to free speech. We're just determining how far from an event, especially a funeral, that you could have something like this," North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said.South Carolina Press Association attorney Jay Bender called banning any speech unconstitutional. He said{}Charleston city council{}probably assumed no one would have time to challenge the ordinance prior to the funeral.But First Amendment attorney Edward Fenno said{}the ordinance was similar to one upheld by a federal court in Ohio."Preserving the sanctity of a funeral is enough to have some restrictions on speech. It's not that they can't speak, they just can't speak for an hour before or an hour after within the 300 foot buffer," Fenno said.But he said police should not restrict protesters from quietly passing out brochures or pamphlets within 300 feet, as that would not be "disruptive." A Charleston Police spokesman said, however, that officers would prohibit that action as well.Kat Garvin said she would also stay 300 feet away. She started a Facebook group that grew to 3,000 people who pledged to form a human wall to block protesters."We'll mobilize people and get them to wherever we need to be to keep them from wreaking havoc and causing chaos in a situation that's been so peaceful so far," Garvin said.She said she wanted the{}nine families to know{}the Lowcountry would{}always{}stand{}behind them.
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