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CHP Sued For Banning Protests At State Capitol During Pandemic

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A new lawsuit is accusing the governor and California Highway Patrol of "abusing their power" after they banned protests at the state capitol.

The CHP made the decision after hundreds of people protested the state's stay-at-home order last week.

In a statement issued to CBS13 on April 21, the agency said: "In the interest of public safety and the health of all Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic, effective immediately the California Highway Patrol will deny any permit requests for events or activities at all state facilities, to include the State Capitol, until public health officials have determined it is safe to gather again."

The permit for that planned protest was granted by the Capitol Protection Unit from CHP. The governor said he thought it was allowed based on protestors staying in their cars.

READ MORE: Free Speech vs. Pandemic Safety: CHP Will Now Deny Permits For Coronavirus Protests At State Facilities

The new rules are already sparking backlash and questions about free speech during a pandemic.

"There's no case law on this. There is no precedent," said Mark Reichel, a Sacramento attorney who has argued in the Supreme Court and is a former Vice President of the Sacramento ACLU.

Reichel said the state has a right to regulate if a protest is causing safety issues.

"It's not the speech or the content, but its the manner in which they were going to do it the state has determined would violate the health emergency that's going on," Reichel said.

The lawsuit was filed by two people who had applied for permits to demonstrate but were rejected.

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