Durham's Sheriff Wants to Put a Stop to Spontaneous Protests on County Property | News

Durham's Sheriff Wants to Put a Stop to Spontaneous Protests on County Property



The above scene (of a spontaneous anti-Klan gathering in downtown Durham this summer) would not be allowed under a proposal being considered by the Durham County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The proposal calls for forty-eight hours notice for demonstrations involving fifty or more people on county property. According to the agenda it was drafted in consultation with the Sheriff’s Office, General Services and Emergency Management. Amending the policy doesn't require a vote from the board.

Sheriff Mike Andrews, who along with his agency has been the subject of frequent protests, suggested more guidelines for protests in August after a crowd pulled down a Confederate monument on county property. The action set off a week of demonstrations, culminating in an impromptu gathering downtown amid reports that the Ku Klux Klan planned to march. While the Klan made no organized appearance, several people at the gathering brought weapons.

"On Friday, August 18th, the images of a man wielding an ax, another with a gun visibly strapped to his hip and a protester armed with a semi-automatic weapon in downtown Durham where a daycare and places of business operate a short distance away were disheartening to witness," Andrews wrote in an August 31 letter to city and county officials. "I hope never to see again such reckless disregard for human life during a purportedly peaceful demonstration." (Charges have since been filed against people who brought weapons to the event. At the time, one man was charged with failing to disperse and no injuries were reported.)

In the letter, Andrews called on the city of Durham to better enforce its permit process and disband groups that block streets and sidewalks without a permit. He also called for the county to revise its facility-use policy to address assemblies without prior permission. The revised policy on Tuesday's agenda
requires prior notice for demonstrations on county grounds "if the group will be 50 or more individuals or has the potential of 50 or more individuals." Organizers should submit an application online forty-eight business hours before the planned event, the proposal says.

If notification isn't given for such a demonstration, participants may be considered trespassing, removed, and subject to criminal or civil charges for any property damage.

"The notification process allows law enforcement, Emergency Management and General Services to schedule the appropriate resources needed for groups of 50 or more individuals," the document says.

The proposal also spells out a definition of a demonstration ("a public display of sentiment for or against a person or cause, including protesting"), adds parking lots to the list of county grounds covered by the policy, adds a definition of weapons, and prohibits tents at demonstrations.

The commissioners' meeting (agenda and video here) begins at nine a.m.

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