Wednesday, February 20, 2008

“If you and me and a friend want to protest taxes or the war or anything else, you can’t say we have to pay for a permit just to do that"

(WB Assistant Solicitor Bill Vinsko)

(click here for Citizen's Voice article)

ACLU opposes city plan for protest permit

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes an ordinance Wilkes-Barre council passed on first reading, which requires people obtain a $20 permit fee to protest, said Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney in the ACLU Philadelphia office.

“If you and me and a friend want to protest taxes or the war or anything else, you can’t say we have to pay for a permit just to do that,” Roper said. “You can’t just make people pay $20 any time they want to stand on a corner with a sign.”

The ACLU, a national organization that advocates individual rights, will write a letter to council pointing out the problems with the ordinance before the final vote on Feb. 28, Roper said.

The city’s ordinance is based on a Philadelphia ordinance, said Assistant Solicitor Bill Vinsko.

In Philadelphia, however, a permit is required when there is a minimum of 75 people protesting, Roper said. In smaller municipalities, a permit is required when there is a minimum of 50 people, she said. The city’s ordinance states a permit is needed when more than one person plans to participate in a demonstration. (bd: So it's based on the Philadelphia ordinance...except the part with the minimum 75 people! WB's is ONE person!).

Changes will be made to the ordinance before next week’s council meeting after Vinsko discusses the changes with council members, he said.

The ordinance’s intent is not to infringe upon people’s right to free speech, but police (bd: WHAT police? WHO?) requested the ordinance to prepare for possible visits from presidential candidates to the area, Vinsko said (bd: Weren't there presidential elections in 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, etc...?). Police want to know where rallies and demonstrations would be held so they could plan on having those areas protected, he said (bd: ...but they didn't care in 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, etc...!).

“We encourage people to speak their minds (bd: But they need to cough up $20 to do so!),” Vinsko said. “All we’re looking to do is to be able to plan for something that is going to occur, and we’re going to tailor the ordinance to reach that objective.” (bd: ...but no one cared about being able to plan for something until Feb. 2008...NOW WE CARE!)

Councilman Bill Barrett said he wouldn’t vote in favor of the ordinance if there is a $20 permit fee. When it comes to freedom of speech, he said he likes the word “free.”

“I don’t have a problem with people registering for a protest or a demonstration. I have a problem with the fee,” Barrett said (bd: But what about the OTHER things, such as relegating protestors to ineffective areas, as Tim Grier states below? You know! "Free Speech Zones"! Kind of like "Jumbo Shrimp", or "intellectual rightwinger", right? It's not free speech, then!).

Political activist Tim Grier said he understands the need for an ordinance for security purposes if presidential candidates come to the area, but his concern is that loopholes would force protesters to position themselves in ineffective areas. He also does not believe there should be a charge to protest. He plans to submit written suggestions to the city clerk’s office about changes to the ordinance before the next council meeting (bd: I hope they read them!).

Police Capt. Donald Crane said police have talked about having an ordinance since two men who protested at the 2005 St. Patrick’s Day parade created a disturbance (bd: ...but not the 2004 presidential election, etc...was the St. Patrick's Day disturbance the first-ever disturbance in Wilkes-Barre? And, btw...that was 3 years ago!).

Police wanted to have an ordinance in place so first responders know where protests, rallies and demonstrations would be held so they could be prepared, especially since this area has been a popular stop for presidential candidates (bd: As I said above, but they never cared before?). Police must protect protesters (bd: They're "protecting us"! That's why they're doing it! They can't protect us...without this ordinance!) and the other people who aren’t protesting as well, he said.

“We never had anything in place. We need something in place (bd: For some reason we're not being clear about...),” Crane said. “I’m all for freedom of speech, but on the other side of the coin, you can’t go into a movie theater and scream ‘fire.’ (bd: The "Straw Man" Argument...falsely compare peacefully protesting, to someone yelling "fire" in a movie theater! How about an ordinance, "No Yelling 'Fire' In the WB Movie Theater"?) There are some limitations.”

(bd: WB council: Keep in mind, that the ACLU stepped in, in the Barletta/illegal immigration ordinance, and it cost Hazleton taxpayers ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Lou Barletta was warned by experts that he would lose and it would cost the Hazleton taxpayers, and that's exactly what happened! This "protest ordinance" has ZERO popularity and it may cost a million dollars defending it!)

Below is a copy of the Wilkes-Barre protest ordinance, leaf through it with the left & right arrows, or hit "open publication" to see it LARGE!

● Times Leader article about WB protest ordinance

● Tim Grier Refuses To Take His Hat Off During Wilkes-Barre City Council Meeting (about the unconstitutional protest ordinance)

(feel free to post any comment you like about this, in the "comments" below this article)
blog comments powered by Disqus