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Glens Falls to ask federal appeals court to weigh in on demonstration lawsuit

Glens Falls to ask federal appeals court to weigh in on demonstration lawsuit

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Downtown rally

In court documents filed Monday, the city said it plans to ask a federal appeals court to weigh in on a lower court's ruling blocking certain parts of an ordinance requiring demonstration permits from being enforced. A federal lawsuit was filed against the city in June by the group American Patriots Express (seen above) alleging the law violated the First Amendment and was overly broad. 

GLENS FALLS — The city plans to ask a federal appeals court to weigh in on a lower court’s ruling that blocked enforcement of parts of a local ordinance requiring demonstration permits.

In a one-page memo filed Monday, the city’s legal team said it will appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A district court judge in July issued an injunction that blocked the city from enforcing aspects of City Code Section 87 — which requires a permit for “pre-planned” gatherings of more than 25 people.

Last month, the judge dismissed a request to reconsider the ruling.

But it’s unclear why the city is appealing the case.

The city’s Common Council last week approved a series of changes to Section 87, essentially nullifying the previous version of the law. Appealing the district court’s rulings, which concerned the previous version of Section 87, would be arguing over a law that no longer exists.

The district court has yet to weigh in on the changes, which the city made at the recommendation of its lawyers. The changes address several issues raised by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn, who issued the injunction.

Loraine Jelinek, the city’s lawyer, did not return multiple requests seeking comment.

Members of American Patriots Express sued the city in June, claiming Section 87 was overly broad and violated the First Amendment. The law, which pertains to pre-planned demonstrations only, was passed in February to address concerns about unruly downtown demonstrations.

But members of American Patriots Express, also known as APEX, argued the law allowed the city to deny a permit based on a group’s political views.

APEX members support the views of President Donald Trump.

The group’s co-founders, David Vanscoy and Florence Sherman, along with an unnamed 17-year-old woman from Warren County, are listed as plaintiffs in the case.

Lawyers for the group did not return a request for comment.

In July, Kahn wrote in a 50-page ruling that APEX showed a likelihood for success in its claim that Section 87 violated the First Amendment.

He took issue with language allowing up to 28 days to grant a demonstration permit upon written notice to the applicant and said the law’s lack of language regarding “spontaneous” demonstrations made it overly broad.

The changes made to the law now require the city to issue a permit within seven business days of receiving an application. The law defines a spontaneous demonstration as one that was not planned seven business days before the event takes place.

Council members also struck language from the law prohibiting face coverings.

A hearing date in front of the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals has yet to be set.

Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.

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