The ACLU of Mississippi, the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and attorney Jack Williams filed a lawsuit against Lafayette County, MS, on behalf of John Rash, a documentary filmmaker, photographer, visual artist, and educator based in Oxford. The lawsuit seeks to vindicate Mr. Rash’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and to invalidate Lafayette County’s unconstitutional policies that govern the use of the Lafayette County Courthouse grounds. The Lafayette County Courthouse grounds, which contain a confederate monument, are the centerpiece of the Oxford town square and have acted as a community gathering point for many years.
Mr. Rash wanted to hold a community art event that would project images onto the walls of the Courthouse. Lafayette County denied his permit after enacting a curfew closing the grounds entirely from dusk till dawn. The County also requires groups of one or five people to apply for a permit fourteen days in advance as well as comply with other unreasonable restrictions on the use of the Courthouse grounds. The County enacted many of these restrictions during the summer of 2020 as protests erupted across the country including in Oxford and Lafayette County after the murder of George Floyd.