Permit Needed to Have One-Man Protest on Sidewalk?

The AP reports:

Edwin Crayton was chased away by a Natchitoches police officer from the front of [a] Wal-Mart store in early October when he tried to protest what he believes is the company's stand on gays, according to the ACLU, which filed a lawsuit on his behalf.

The ACLU said the police officer told Crayton that he needed a permit to protest ....

When Crayton protested he held a sign that read, "Christians: Wal-Mart Supports Gay Lifestyles And Marriage. Don't Shop There." ...

After the ACLU sued, the parties agreed to suspend the ordinances as to the plaintiff until a final hearing on the permanent injunction, and the court implemented that through a court order.

The ordinances involved require permits (for which $10 is charged) for "[a]ll public gatherings" and all "open air public meeting[s]"; while such ordinances would be constitutional when the meeting or gathering is large enough, I doubt that they'd be constitutional for small demonstrations, especially given that sometimes such demonstrations quickly react to recent events. I've read several circuit cases that have in fact held that such ordinances are impermissible unless they exempt small groups (though the required cutoff is not entirely settled). And it's hard to see why such an ordinance would be constitutional as to solo demonstrators, even if it on its face purports to apply to such demonstrators (something that's not clear, since one person holding a sign is literally hard to call a "gathering[]" or a "meeting").

Thanks to Allen Asch, author of the ACLU Fights for Christians Web page; and thanks to the ACLU of Louisiana for taking the case.