Florence police release plan to protect citizens, rights of protesters and counter protesters

Several protests and counter protests have taken place in Florence recently, all revolving around the Confederate statue outside the Lauderdale County Courthouse.

Posted: Sep 11, 2020 8:30 PM

Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler has released a new plan for how his department will deal with protests.

In a news release, Tyler said the changes are for public safety, and that he consulted with the ACLU to ensure the rights of both protesters and counter protesters are protected.

Several protests and counter protests have taken place in Florence recently, all revolving around the Confederate statue outside the Lauderdale County Courthouse.

“Also reflected in the plan, and also consistent with the ALCU guidance, the police can restrict ‘routes’ and ‘sound equipment’ when necessary for ‘public safety,” Tyler said.

Tyler added that the changes give “everyone the opportunity and appropriate space to express their First Amendment rights while also protecting downtown patrons, not involved in the protests, from being caught up in any altercations.”

See his full plan below:

In the interest of Public Safety, the Florence Police Department is establishing the following boundaries for downtown protests. Effective immediately, those persons wishing to protest the existence of the confederate monument in downtown Florence may do so, but will be required to remain in the area south of Tennessee St. and west of S. Court St. (courthouse side). Counter protesters may protest in the area south of Tennessee St and east of S. Court St. (Long Lewis/Suntrust Building side). Yelling, chanting, and singing in this area is permitted if the noise level remains reasonable. No sound amplification devices are allowed, except for the Courthouse property, and so long as the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s office continues to permit it. All street and sidewalks must remain open and clear for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, respectively.

Moreover, the three blocks of N. Court St., spanning from Tennessee St. to Tuscaloosa St. is restricted to restaurant and business patrons only. No active protesting is permitted in this area. The Florence Police Department will have zero tolerance for any protester crossing S. Court St. to the opposing side or protesting on N, Court St. We are prepared to enforce the provisions of Disorderly Conduct (Alabama Code 13a-11-7). Enforcement action will be taken against anyone violating the law.

Out of concern for public safety, the police department is allowed keep protesters and counter protesters separated. Also in the interest of public safety, we may keep protesters away from citizens not wanting to be a part of the protest activity. The idea of keeping antagonistic groups separated is supported by the ACLU as outlined in the “ACLU Know Your Rights; Protester’s Rights” literature. Herein, the ACLU states, “Police are permitted to keep antagonistic groups separated but should allow them to be within sight and sound of one another.” The ACLU also agrees that when necessary for public safety, the police can place restrictions on “routes” and “sound equipment” used during protests. Based on recent events, these restrictions are necessary.

This plan is a reasonable, common sense approach. It keeps both protest groups safely separated while allowing them to express their First Amendment rights and peacefully protest. At the same time, this plan allows downtown businesses to operate with little disruption, and allows downtown patrons not involved in the protests to shop and eat without fear or concern for their safety and well-being.

In short:

Protesters and Counter protesters can protest in the area of S. Court St. between Tennessee St. and Dr. Hicks Blvd., provided that:

Monument protesters stay WEST of S. Court St. and,

Counter protesters stay EAST of S. Court St.

All protestors must stay SOUTH of Tennessee St.

Protesters may carry signs as they march and may shout, sing, and chant so long as they stay in their respective protest areas.

Monument protesters may gather at the Courthouse and use sound amplification devices, as long as the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s office permits.

NO active protesting is permitted on N. Court St in the business/restaurant district. Protesters who choose to protest in this area will be subject to zero tolerance as outlined below:

As necessary to maintain Public Safety, if anyone crosses established boundary lines, FPD will take enforcement action for any of the following behavior:

Fighting, or violent tumultuous, or threatening behavior.

Anyone making unreasonable noise.

Anyone using abusive or obscene language or who makes an obscene gesture.

Anyone obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

Anyone who refuses to comply with a lawful order to disperse.

Any person using their vehicle’s horn for any reason other than as a reasonable warning or in any manner that is unnecessary or unreasonably loud.

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