First Amendment

A sign for Asheville's Aston Park

Asheville prosecutors want journalists’ lawyer to stop talking to the press

BY: - May 9, 2023

The Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office has asked a judge to reprimand an attorney representing two journalists convicted last month of trespassing while reporting late Christmas night 2021 on police activity in Asheville’s Aston Park. The attorney’s offense, according to Assistant District Attorney Robert A. McRight: talking to the press. A rule set by the […]

As NC legislators target “obscenity,” the nation’s top librarian has her say

BY: - April 26, 2023

Members of the House Judiciary committee passed legislation Tuesday that would increase the severity of punishment for intentionally disseminating obscenity while knowingly in the presence of minors. The ‘Prevent Harm to Children’ act (Senate Bill 579) would increase the penalty from a Class I felony to a Class H for violations. The brief conversation in […]

Asheville Blade reporters Veronica Coit and Matilda Bliss

Asheville journalists convicted of trespassing for covering police action at public park

BY: - April 20, 2023

Two Asheville journalists were convicted of trespassing Wednesday for covering the city’s police presence in a public park on Christmas night 2021. Chief District Court Judge James Calvin Hill found Veronica Coit and Matilda Bliss, two journalists for the self-described leftist news outlet The Asheville Blade, guilty of second-degree trespassing for failing to leave Aston […]

A sign for Asheville's Aston Park

Asheville reporters scheduled for trial this week as a related one about protestors begins

BY: - April 19, 2023

Two reporters for the progressive online news source The Asheville Blade are scheduled to go on trial Wednesday after being arrested for covering a police sweep of Aston Park. Matilda Bliss and Veronica Coit are each facing misdemeanor trespassing charges, a low-level crime that can carry up to 20 days in jail and a $200 fine. […]

A cell phone displaying a TikTok app

One state already has voted to ban TikTok. For Congress, it’s going to be much tougher.

BY: - April 18, 2023

As TikTok has mushroomed to more than 150 million monthly U.S. users, so have warnings among both state legislators and members of Congress about its potential danger as a tool of the Chinese government. Dozens of states and the federal government this year banned public employees from downloading the popular app on their government devices. […]

Asheville police at a homeless encampment

Pointless trial of Asheville journalists will undermine city’s progressive image

BY: - April 17, 2023

Authorities in Ohio dropped charges within days of the arrest of a journalist at a February press conference. Phoenix’s mayor personally apologized in January to a reporter detained while conducting interviews. In December, the Atlanta Police Department said it would investigate officers who threatened charges against a filmmaker documenting a protest.  But Buncombe County prosecutors […]

The NC Legislative Building

ACLU sues over new state law it says puts peaceful protestors in danger of prosecution

BY: - April 11, 2023

The ACLU of North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit against a new state law that is supposed to curb rioting, saying provisions give police discretion to arrest nonviolent protesters.  The law violates both the U.S. and state constitutions and includes provisions that a federal court previously found to be unconstitutional, the ACLU said in a […]

A sign for Asheville's Aston Park

Newly released body cam footage shows Asheville Police arresting journalists

BY: - February 27, 2023

Shortly after Aston Park had closed on Christmas night 2021, several Asheville Police officers surveyed the tents on the park grounds and strategized how they were going to get everyone off city property. “Why don’t we deal with the standing first, since they’re videotaping?” one officer asked. The people who were standing were Matilda Bliss […]

Federal court of appeals rules NC’s ag-gag law is unconstitutional, signals a win for whistleblowers

BY: - February 24, 2023

In a split decision the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that North Carolina’s “ag-gag law” is unconstitutional and infringes on free speech. The three-judge panel ruled 2-1: Justices Henry Floyd and Albert Diaz, both appointed by President Obama, wrote for the majority. Judge Allison Jones Rushing, an appointee of President […]

Homelessness and the First Amendment on trial in Asheville

BY: - February 17, 2023

City draws fire for its treatment of unhoused population and arrest of journalists attempting to cover police sweep of city park It was Christmas night, so Veronica Coit hadn’t expected to stay at Aston Park for long. They had come to bring their colleague, Matilda Bliss, a plate from dinner: turkey, sweet potato- and green bean-casseroles, collard greens and a slice of pie.


The U.S. Supreme Court could fall on this slippery slope of discrimination

BY: - December 14, 2022

Few people like being told what they must do. Lorie Smith is one of them. The suburban Denver, Colo., business owner, a devout Christian, builds websites for customers. She wants to expand her business and begin building websites for couples who are planning weddings. But she is adamant that she does not want to be […]

PW special report: Religious conservatives showcase close bond with NC Republican leaders

BY: - October 19, 2022

Recent church-based events test IRS rules, court allegations of Christian nationalism   Gary Miller has a story he likes to tell about religion and politics. When serving as pastor of a church years ago, he was frustrated by how long it took to get a building permit. So he ran for city council - and lost by one vote. “I came back to my people Sunday morning,” Miller told a crowd earlier this month at Cross Assembly church in Raleigh. “And I said, ‘I’d like for everyone who voted for me to please stand’. And those that remained seated, I handed out voter registration cards.”