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Council proposes ban on Centennial Circle protests

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather in Centennial Circle on Thursday. The circle would be banned as a demonstration location under a revised local law that will be before the Common Council on Tuesday for a public hearing.

GLENS FALLS — People organizing smaller-scale demonstrations would not be required to give the city any notice, but groups would be prohibited from protesting at Centennial Circle or near the Civil War monument under revised regulations that the Common Council will review on Tuesday.

“If you’re expecting 25 people or more, we still need 10 days’ (notice), but if you’re expecting up to 15, you can do that without notice at all,” said Councilwoman-At-Large Jane Reid.

Groups of between 15 and 25 people would only need five days’ notice. Reid said if more people show up than what organizers had intended, the additional people will be moved to a different demonstration location.

“It’s all about keeping the traffic patterns safe and the sidewalks open, so we’re going to have the right to move some of you,” she said.

City Park will be the preferred location for a larger demonstration, Reid added.

In addition, firearms would be prohibited except for ceremonial purposes during the Memorial Day parade, according to Reid.

City officials also clarified language in the proposed local law regarding display of banners. People cannot attach them to private property or public property without permission.

Violations of the law carry a potential fine of $250 and/or sentenced to a jail term of 15 days.

The Common Council will hold a public hearing on the law at 7:25 p.m. in Common Council chambers.

Reid said she is not sure if the council will take action. It will depend on comments received at the public hearing. If the council and public is satisfied, then the council members may introduce the law under old business.

“If there’s stuff that comes up and people want to discuss that, then we’ll take that under advisement,” she said.

The city was prompted to introduce the regulations based on the increasing numbers of large demonstrations downtown for people in support of and opposed to President Donald Trump and the need for people to respect each other’s personal space. At the Oct. 8 Common Council meeting, some people questioned the need for regulations.

About 15 people attended another pro-Trump rally last Thursday at Centennial Circle organized by American Patriots Express. This was before the changes to the regulations became public.

Protester Ricky Brown said he believes that items needed to be clarified in the original law, especially the regulations on banners. He also believe that 10 days’ worth of notice was too much, given the political climate.

“These things go so fast. Anything can happen,” he said.

Dave Van Scoy, of APEX, was opposed to any regulations.

“Any kind of restrictions they put on it is a direct assault on the First Amendment,” he said.

The North Country Deplorables had scheduled a rally for that same day at Juckett Park in Hudson Falls. However, no one attended.

Juckett Park was also the site of a large pro-Trump rally on Aug. 2. Village Mayor John Barton said there have been no problems reported to him from the police chief. He put some police presence in Juckett Park.

“As far as I’m aware, it hasn’t been a hindrance to traffic or anything. If it gets to that point, we’ll have to address some issues,” he said. Barton was not aware of demonstrations in the past occurring at Juckett Park. When asked if Hudson Falls would consider regulations like the ones Glens Falls is debating, he said the village would monitor the situation.

“If it develops into an issue, we’ll have to address it and come up with rules and regulations,” he said.

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Michael Goot covers politics, business, Glens Falls and Lake George. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog at http://poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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