Daniel GabuardiStaff Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic is in full effect and drastically impacting the entire globe. Its effects are unpredictable and causing local and national governments to react in an unprecedented manner. Whether the virus is something to worry about is still disputed by the public. However, most will agree that government action is necessary. At this time backlash to government action may be low, but when the dust settles those affected by the measures the government is taking will have their turn.

On March 15, 2020, the mayor of the City of Miami Beach issued an ordinance closing down the city’s beaches. Subsequently, on March 19, 2020, the mayor of Miami-Dade County issued an ordinance closing all beaches in the County. This ordinance included shutting down all non-essential businesses and dining-in options at restaurants. All this was done in an effort to prevent the spread of the corona virus. These acts, however necessary, bar people from their right to assemble.

The First Amendment guarantees the public the right to assemble peaceably. However, the courts have made certain exceptions. The federal or local government can place restrictions on time, place, or manner so long as the restrictions are justified without reference to the content of regulated speech, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information. These restrictions are normally applied through municipalities requiring permits to assemble. There is no precedent for municipalities preventing citizens from their right to assemble and completely shutting down public areas for an extended period of time. The ordinances can affect those not in compliance with criminal action. This unprecedented action by the government may leave those effected with criminal action against them with a right of action against the government.