GLENS FALLS — Organizers of demonstrations of 25 people or more in the city would be required to apply for a free permit at least 10 days before the event, and air horns would be prohibited, under a draft local law that the Common Council will review on Tuesday to regulate the proliferating protests occurring downtown.
The meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Common Council chambers.
The law would prohibit carrying banners, explosives, plastic or metal pipes, noxious materials, flammable liquids or gases or wood products. Drones are also prohibited.
It would also prohibit people from wearing facial coverings, blocking the sidewalk, hanging signs that impede the public way or blocking traffic.
People would have to obtain approval from the Police Department to carry firearms, even if they are used as part of a color guard.
The law also would prohibit a smaller group from splintering off from the main group to stage smaller rallies or picketing unless they obtain a permit.
For permit purposes, a demonstration would be defined as a gathering of 25 or more. The application must state the starting and ending time of the demonstration, its location and the name of the responsible party and telephone number.
Gatherings of 5,000 or more people would be required to obtain a permit from the state Department of Health and include a safety plan.
No fees will be charged. In addition, people can apply for a recurring demonstration.
Anybody violating this law could be fined up to $250 and/or sentenced to a jail term of 15 days.
City officials are trying to get a handle on the different groups taking opposing sides, sometimes over the policies of the administration of President Donald Trump. Some protesters have expressed concern about vulgarities being shouted at them and of counterprotesters intruding on their personal space.
The council met on Sept. 24 in executive discussion with its legal counsel to discuss how to regulate the demonstrations to protect public safety and respect the demonstrators and downtown businesses.
After reviewing the proposed law Tuesday, the council will set a public hearing for 7:25 p.m. at its Oct. 22 meeting.
The various protest groups had mixed reactions to the proposal on Monday.
David Van Scoy of American Patriots Express called the proposed regulations “absurd.”
“The city of Glens Falls is overreacting to a few baseless complaints from leftists who seek to limit law-abiding Trump supporters exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said in an email to The Post-Star.
“City officials are willing to sacrifice the rights of the majority over fearmongering by these leftists and The Post-Star. American Patriots Express will not take this assault on our First Amendment sitting down — nor should any citizen for that matter. We will challenge these proposals every step of the way.”
Van Scoy said he believes that these regulations stemmed from a few of the anti-Trump protesters going to Mayor Dan Hall following the protest in which six people were arrested after refusing to leave the office of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville.
During that demonstration, anti- and pro-Stefanik forces were within feet of each other in front of Stefanik’s office, shouting and singing and blaring sirens.
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Mike Kibling, of North Country Deplorables, said Monday he did not want to comment until he had more time to review the proposal.
“I guess I’ll have to read though it and discuss it with civil lawyers we have that will be representing us. We’ll wait for their advice and their direction,” he said.
Kibling went on to say that he believes it is unfair the way some of the pro-Trump groups have been portrayed by the media.
The Post-Star, in its Saturday edition, published an article about city officials wanting to alert the public that they believed some of the protesters at a rally on Saturday would be bringing unloaded guns to the demonstration.
“I’ve never owned a gun in my entire life. I don’t carry guns. I understand that people have that Second Amendment,” he said. “I’m scared of guns.”
In response, he and other people brought Nerf guns to the rally to thumb their nose at that false rumor.
He said his group has been unfairly targeted.
“We’ve had people in our group that have had their cars damaged, (received) threatening messages. We’ve been spit on. We’ve had things thrown at us,” he said.
“We haven’t broken any laws. We’re getting a very, very unfair shake,” he added.
Kibling admitted he has used foul language and hurled insults publicly.
“Whatever they call me, I repeat it back to them and you see their reaction,” he said.
Bill Bombard, of the Friends of President Trump group, said he is not surprised that the city is proposing these rules.
“I told everybody if you don’t tone it down, this is what’s going to happen. In my opinion, they deserve what they get because they didn’t listen. They think they can do what they want to do without repercussion,” he said.
He added that he would like to see something in the rules that spells out what would happen if one group of demonstrators tried to crash another group, which is what he said happened on Saturday with the North Country Deplorables downtown. The Friends of President Trump had a rally scheduled for that day from 3 to 7 p.m. and the Deplorables group held an event beginning at 2 p.m.
Bombard said some of his members said they do not want to come to rallies because they worry about what is going to happen when they get there.
Agata Stanford, of the anti-Trump group New Resistance USA, said she is pleased with the proposal and has no issues with obtaining a permit.
“We’ve been assured that any reasonable demonstration would not be denied,” she said.
Stanford said she believes the law would help ensure their safety.
“No more bullhorn in our faces, and people will have to allow us a clear path when we wish to go to Representative Stefanik’s office,” she said.