Taking Away Your Rights!

City Leaders Against Free Speech

by George Boyington

Taking Away Your Rights!

City Leaders Against Free Speech

by George Boyington

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Two weeks ago today, the city of memphis releaseD legislation,

this legislation reaffirmed and enhanced their rights of administration for parades, public assemblies, and races.

Last Tuesday, at the November 21st meeting of the Memphis City Council,

an ordinance was introduced to amend the process for permitting parades, races, and public assemblies. It passed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. It will be presented again to the full General Body of the Memphis City Council on Tuesday, December 5th. On Saturday, November 25th, an informational Town Hall style meeting occurred where citizens provided their feedback on how they felt about this measure, what they thought should be done to combat it, and what a reasonable process for public assembly, parades, and races should look like.

This legislation was really bad for citizens, as it affirmed and enhanced penalties for one or more persons gathered in public spaces (such as parks, sidewalks, etc.). In my official capacity as an elected officer of the Tenessee Young Democrats, I vehemently came out in opposition to this measure.

Purportedly, this legislation was submitted by Memphis City Council Member Reid Hedgepeth to better regulate races. However, myself, my attorney, and others have confirmed that the administration of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, including the Director of Police Mike Rallings, Chief Operating Officer (Doug McGowan) and Council Chairman Berlin Boyd, advocated for this legislation to be passed, and that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s office was in concurrence with it. I stand by these statements as fact, and I am willing to direct my attorney to present evidence of the validity of those statements is the administration chooses to challenge them. Last week, the Mayor’s office came out and attempted to dispute the validity of our opposition to this bill by claiming it was necessary to regulate 5K races, and that the origins of the bill were innocent.

Deputy Director of Communications, Kyle Veazey, both in his official capacity using the “Mayor Jim Strickland” Facebook account, and utilizing his personal twitter account, attempted to challenge the validity and seriousness of efforts to oppose this legislation.

The Meeting

Citizens chime in.

Recognizing that every statement I asserted was true against this legislation, in my capacity as the Vice Chair of the Tennessee Young Democrats Grassroots Caucus, I had several conversations with the administration, as well as a meeting to discuss what a fair and equitable parades, races, and public assemblies ordinance should look like alongside my attorney representing me in my official elected capacity.

The input I provided to the administration came directly from a Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens work session where citizens directly provided feedback on what they would like to see in a fair and equitable permitting ordinance.

To the administration’s credit, they re-wrote the proposed ordinance.. However, it is far from perfect, and not all that my constituents have asked for

Re-written proposed ordinance:

We are not against the regulation of 5K races.

We are against the reaffirmation and enhancement of penalties for nonviolent, peaceful demonstration. We are against an appeals process for permits that can take up to three weeks.

 We are against paying for police protection that the City of Memphis is required to provide and which has already been paid for by previously collected tax revenues.

We are against applying for permits between 90 and 180 days in advance. We are against incarceration for exercising rights guaranteed to us in the first amendment.

We are against any increase in permit fees.

We are against the placement of undercover officers without just cause or the commission of any crime (violations of the permits ordinance not withstanding), and at the administration’s choosing- including at political and activist meetings.

We are against any legislation that gives the police probable cause to make a law enforcement with “one or more persons” without the commission or suspicion of the commission of a crime (violations of the permits ordinance not withstanding).

We are against the undefined and unlimited use of “special tactics” to “forestall public disorder;” special tactics that can include electronic surveillance, physical surveillance, special weapons and tactics (SWAT), and the deployment of physical and chemical deterrents such as rubber bullets and bear mace.

It’s the end of the year. The City of Memphis is attempting to pass a sack full of harmful legislation at lightning speed. Lets pack the Memphis City Council Chambers this Tuesday, December 5th and let’s stop these harmful proposals from becoming law.

Many different groups with items before the Memphis City Council are gathering at 3:15 to flood the council chambers in opposition to many agenda items. Please come out and lend your voice to these very critical efforts.

Honestly, there really shouldn’t be a permits process in the current iteration. Any process whereby citizens have to ask for permission from government to peaceably assemble subject to broad powers of denial should be opposed. Most importantly, fines and fees shouldn’t be levied towards nonviolent gatherings, and the risk of jail shouldn’t exist.

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Stand Up for Your Rights!

Today at City Hall!

Please continue to follow this issue, and show up at the meeting of the Memphis City Council on Today, December 5th at 3:15.”

Constitutionally, courts are nearly united in the fact that government does indeed have a right to be informed about the occurrence of events. And that makes since. The police are duty bound to protect citizens, whenever they choose to peaceably congregate in public. And police are needed protect lives, prevent violence, secure private property, etc. Just the same, in no way should any law enforcement agent or government bureaucrat decide whether or not you are allowed to gather and express yourself. That’s unequivocally wrong.


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