Victory in "bullhorn" anti-protest case against Kwame Rose

September 20, 2016

VICTORY: Unlawful "Failure to Obey" Charge Dismissed Against Activist Kwame Rose


September 20, 2016


CONTACT: Meredith Curtis Goode, ACLU,, 443-310-9946


BALTIMORE, MD - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland was heartened when Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Videtta A. Brown yesterday dismissed the the last remaining charge the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office was pursuing against activist Kwame Rose as a result of his participation in protests outside the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse during the Freddie Gray case. Rose had been charged with two counts of disorderly conduct (blocking a sidewalk, and blocking traffic), disturbing the peace, and failure to obey a lawful order.  At a trial in state District Court in February, Judge Jack I. Lesser acquitted Rose of all of the charges except the failure to obey, accepting the State's argument that Rose had acted unlawfully by not obeying a sheriff's directive that all use of amplified sound next to the courthouse was prohibited.  


This ruling came in Rose's appeal to the state Circuit Court of the conviction on that one count.  Judge Brown granted the defense motion to dismiss, and held that Judge Lesser's verdict finding Rose guilty of failure to obey a lawful order was inconsistent with his not guilty verdict for disturbing the peace, reasoning that since Judge Lesser had acquitted Rose of making an "unreasonably loud noise" with his bullhorn, he could not convict him of failing to obey an order not to use the bullhorn.  Judge Brown also held that the order Rose and others were given, prohibiting any use of amplified sound outside of the courthouse, was unconstitutionally broad, in violation of Rose's First Amendment rights, because no statute prohibits all use of amplified sound in that location, and because not all amplified sound actually interferes with the operation of the court.


Kenneth Ravenell, of Ravenell Law, represented Mr. Rose as a pro bono cooperating attorney with the ACLU. "I am happy that Judge Brown read our legal arguments and vindicated Mr. Rose's First Amendment right to assemble peacefully and be heard without unwarranted restrictions on his speech."


Kwame Rose, Activist and ACLU Client: "This ruling affirms that our voices are being heard by certain parts of the judicial process. However, justice has not become a reality for the family of Freddie Gray, and other victims of police brutality, and we must continue to voice our displeasure with the lack of accountability shown." 


David Rocah, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Maryland: "These charges never should have been brought in the first place, because they rested on the legally incorrect premise that the Sheriff has the authority to ban all use of amplified sound outside of the courthouse.  We hope the Judge's ruling will ensure that the Sheriff never seeks to enforce a similar unconstitutional ban again."