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Charleston city leaders pass new regulations on protests, demonstrations

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 9:36 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 11:44 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston City Council passed new regulations on protests and demonstrations on Thursday evening. City leaders say the new “First Amendment Demonstration Ordinances” are designed to provide a clear and consistent process to have a safe environment for protest and demonstration activities in the city.

The rules are effective immediately and include regulations such as demonstrations cannot be 15-feet from a monument or memorial, and participants cannot openly carry a firearm.

Officials with the Charleston Police Department released a video on the new ordinances which they said provides clear definitions of what demonstrations are, how to apply for a permit and conditions for approval.

In addition, the ordinance details how demonstrations must be managed to ensure the safety of the public.

According to CPD officials, the First Amendment demonstration is now defined as any demonstration, assembly, picketing, speechmaking, marching, protesting, vigil, or religious service, and similar events that are held on the street, park or public place in the city that involves communicating or expression of views engaged in one or more people which is likely to draw a crowd.

“A First Amendment demonstration permit is required for all demonstrations including 25 people or more,” city authorities said. “The only exception to this is spontaneous demonstrations, which are in response to breaking news in the past 48 hours.”

Other regulations include:

  • Demonstrations cannot block vehicle or pedestrian traffic
  • Demonstrations cannot be held within 15 feet of a monument fountain, historical marker, and several other places listed in the ordinance (which can be seen below).
  • Participants cannot deface or attach signs or objects on any city property statue or monument,
  • It is unlawful for any participant of a demonstration to harass or intimidate any bystanders

Authorities say they can reasonably restrict the time, place, and manner of demonstrations in order to ensure public health and safety.

“This means law enforcement can direct participants to remain in a certain area and or separate opposing groups,” CPD officials said.

Additional regulations include the following:

  • Permits are required for all demonstrations of 25 people or more
  • Exceptions are ‘spontaneous demonstrations’ but CPD encourages people to call their office of special events to coordinate a safe event.
  • Typically demonstration permits are required to be submitted 3 days before an event, but CPD will work with organizers in a shorter period of time if needed.
  • Organizers and the city will communicate and plan together to make sure the demonstration will be conducted in a safe and appropriate manner
  • Participants cannot deface, hang, or attach signs or objects on city property/statue/or monument
  • Unlawful for participants to harass or intimidate bystanders
  • Participants must follow city park rules if held in a city park and all participants must follow all federal/state/ and local laws ordinances and regulations
  • Law enforcement can reasonably restrict the time, place, and manner of demonstrations to ensure public health and safety. This means law enforcement can direct participants to remain in a certain areas and/or separate certain groups.
  • Failure to adhere to the ordinance is punishable by criminal arrest and/or citation

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