Salisbury City Council will hold a public hearing at its meeting, Tuesday, April 16, regarding proposed revisions to the First Amendment Ordinance: Chapter 22, Article V of the Salisbury City Code of Ordinances, which addresses public assemblies protected by the First Amendment. The revisions were proposed by a Council Committee composed of Mayor Pro Tem David Post and Councilman Brian Miller.
Following initial Council Committee meetings to discuss the Public Street Festivals and Special Events Ordinance, the committee decided to separate the First Amendment Ordinance from the Special Events discussion. The last three Committee meetings, out of the 13 held, exclusively addressed the First Amendment Ordinance.
The bulleted summary below explains the substantive revisions to the ordinance. Other stylistic revisions included in the proposed revisions do not appear on this list, but are nonetheless included in the redlined version of the ordinance here. The clean version of the ordinance can be found here.
- Title. The title of Article V was changed to reflect the substance of the changes within the ordinance. The Article no longer regulates parades (those are regulated by the Special Events ordinance) and the section on picketing was removed altogether.
- Definitions. The definitions that are no longer applicable (picket line, parade, and block) were removed. The previous “Group Demonstration” was revised into the following two definitions: 1) Demonstrations, which includes all public assemblies, regardless of size; and 2) Group Demonstrations, which is only those demonstrations involving ten (10) or more people, and for which a permit is required.
- Penalty/Police Supervision. The penalty section and the police supervision section were removed. By operation of state law, unless otherwise provided by Council, any violation of a city ordinance is a Class 3 misdemeanor. G.S. §160A-175(b). Similarly, the police supervision section was removed as superfluous.
- Interference. This section was revised to include a prohibition on interfering with any permitted event (e.g., Special Events, Public Festivals, and Group Demonstrations) and also with a demonstration that does not require a permit (e.g., a demonstration with less than 10 people). This prohibition does not mean that groups with opposing messages may not communicate those messages to other groups, only that individuals or groups may not physically disrupt the event or demonstration. The revisions also include a prohibition on interference with pedestrian and vehicular traffic and access to buildings along the sidewalks and streets.
- Weapons prohibition. The weapons prohibition was revised to provide a more illustrative list of the types of firearms and dangerous weapons that are prohibited during demonstrations and other events. This revisions also create a 250-feet buffer section around demonstrations and other events where firearms and dangerous weapons are also prohibited.
- Picketing. This section was entirely removed. The conduct addressed within this section was somewhat dated and is addressed in other parts of the ordinance.
- Permit requirement
- A permit is only required for Group Demonstrations involving ten (10) or more people. Demonstrations involving less than ten (10) people do not require a permit, but are allowed to request one. Spontaneous demonstrations, regardless of size, similarly do not require a permit, but may not last for more than twelve (12) hours.
- Permit applications must be filed at least 48 hours in advance of a group demonstration.
- Permit applications must designate at least one person in charge of the group demonstration.
- The city manager or designee (in Salisbury’s case, the Police Chief) has the authority to place reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on a permit, so long as they are unrelated to content.
- Permits are granted unless there is a specific reason to deny the permits, which must be stated in writing.
- Denial/Revocation. This section was revised to list the reasons the Police Chief may deny or revoke a permit. The list is exclusive and content-neutral.
- Appeal. This section was added to create an appeal process for permits that are denied or revoked.
These proposed revisions will appear on the City Council Agenda for April 16, 2019.