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Protest regulations revised, permit process clearly spelled out

Protest regulations revised, permit process clearly spelled out

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Anti-war vigil

Anti-war protesters gather at the intersection of Bay and Glen streets in Glens Falls earlier this month. The Common Council has revised its proposed regulations regarding protests and will hold a public hearing on Feb. 11.

GLENS FALLS — The city has tweaked its protest regulations to increase the threshold for requiring a permit, more clearly spell out the process and reduce the distance that demonstrators and counter-protesters must be from each other.

The changes were made after city officials met with representatives from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Councilwoman-at-Large Jane Reid said it was an “incredibly productive meeting.”

“They were incredibly well-informed and willing to share their knowledge with us,” she said.

Following the meeting, Reid, Third Ward Councilwoman Diana Palmer, City Clerk Bob Curtis and Mike Mender, assistant to the mayor, met on Jan. 17 to revise the language.

The city had drafted regulations to get a handle on the proliferation of protests downtown. The NYCLU had expressed concern that previous versions of the local law was “overreaching and unnecessary and could be an infringement on free speech rights.”

The council will review the updated regulations at its meeting on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. It is scheduled to set up a public hearing for Feb. 11 at 7:20 p.m.

One of the biggest changes was to the old requirement that organizers give city officials 10 days’ notice for groups of 25 or more and five days’ notice for groups of between 15 and 25.

That has been changed to require a permit for any public assembly, parade or event involving more than 25 people. The application must describe the date, time, location, name of the organization, approximate number of people expected to participate and the applicant’s phone number, according to the new draft.

“Then, the city clerk will review it to make sure we have everything we need,” Reid said.

Applications for permits will be processed in order of receipt, and in all cases, a decision will be made within 14 days of the application, according to the draft.

“If that location has already been reserved by somebody else for that date and time, we can deny the application,” Reid said.

The clerk will alert the mayor’s office, Police Department and Fire Department, indicating that someone has reserved a space for a protest on a specific date.

The decision to grant or deny the permit will be based simply on logistics, Reid said.

“If you’re planning 20,000 people, we can say that location is inappropriate,” she said.

The city can suggest alternate locations.

Another change was to reduce the distance that protesters and counter-protesters must be set apart from 30 feet to 8 feet.

“Eight feet has passed muster with the United States Supreme Court, so we’re going with 8 feet,” she said.

The provision requiring people to stay back 5 feet from the road at Centennial Circle and the Civil War Monument remains in the revision.

State law already prohibits people from standing in the island in Centennial Circle or in the little divider sections where cars queue up as they wait to enter the circle, according to Reid.

“It’s just literally going to fall on the Police Department to make sure traffic isn’t obstructed,” she said.

Reid said she believes the revised law will stand up to legal scrutiny.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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