Elon Law professor discusses legal challenges to ‘anti-riot’ laws

Associate Dean Enrique Armijo, a scholar of the First Amendment, spoke with Law360 about the merits of legal challenges to states that are imposing harsher penalties for those arrested during public protests.

Enrique Armijo, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at Elon University School of Law

With a number of states passing law that impose harsher penalties for certain types of public demonstrations – legislative efforts that follow in the wake of the racial justice movement of 2020 – some advocacy groups are filing federal lawsuits that argue the new rules are unconstitutional.

And while at least one of those lawsuits includes a challenge to the law based on the Fourteenth Amendment, an Elon Law scholar told Law360 that plaintiffs stand a better chance of overturning “anti-riot” laws by emphasizing the chilling effect they may have on free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“If I want to protest something and I don’t know whether or not I’m going to get arrested for protesting, I’m just going to sit at home. That’s me not engaging in constitutionally protected activity,” Associate Dean Enrique Armijo told Law360 reporter Cara Bayles in a recent interview. “Courts are really worried about that.”

“As ‘Anti-Riot’ Laws Pass, Legal Challenges Grow” was published June 6, 2021.

Armijo is an Affiliate Fellow of the Yale Law School Information Society Project and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life. He teaches and researches in the areas of the First Amendment, constitutional law, torts, administrative law, media and internet law, and international freedom of expression.

His scholarship addresses the interaction between new technologies and free speech.