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Court Case Questions Protest Restrictions At Oregon State Capitol

Oregon's highest court is taking up the question of whether the state can restrict protests in front of the capitol. The case stems from a 2008 anti-war rally that resulted in arrests after protesters refused to leave the grounds overnight.

Justices heard arguments Thursday.

Michele Darr spent night after winter night on the front steps of the Oregon capitol in December of 2008. "It was difficult," she says. "It was cold. It was uncomfortable."

Darr and others were protesting the deployment of Oregon National Guard troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. The group maintained an around-the-clock vigil. One night, Darr was arrested for trespassing. Her crime? Disobeying a ban on overnight protests.

"I think it's a really slippery slope to end freedom of speech when the sun goes down, or at any other arbitrary time," Darr says. "What's next? Five o'clock, business hours?"

Darr and five other protesters are challenging their arrests. They say it violates their free speech rights. The state argues that the overnight ban is a reasonable restriction that doesn't violate the freedom of speech. A lower court agreed with the state's position.

The Oregon Supreme Court could take several months to issue a decision.

On the Web:

Case summary: State of Oregon v. Mark N. Babson - Oregon Supreme Court