Huntsville Police explain how they prepare to respond to protests to keep community safe

The police department told us having officers come in early or stay late allows them to position people nearby to make sure everyone is safe.

Posted: Sep 24, 2020 9:19 PM
Updated: May 4, 2021 11:14 AM

As cities across the country prepare for more possible protests, the WAAY 31 I-TEAM wanted to know what, if anything, Huntsville police are doing to prepare.

A protest planned to happen at City Hall Thursday night is now postponed because of the non-stop rain throughout the day, but Huntsville Police told me they're always monitoring and working to prepare for these types of events to keep everyone in the community safe.

Capt. Michael Johnson said the department tries to to coordinate protests with any organization planning one to make sure everyone understands the laws and rules to stay safe.

"We do try to reach out to any potential organizers, whether they're permitted or not permitted. If they are not permitted sometimes it's more difficult to find out who the organizer is, but if we do, we try our best to reach out to them and have a conversation on their plans and intent for protests their abilities to control the environment and do they know who's coming, those kinds of things," he said.

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Laws and rules include not being allowed to bring a weapon, blocking roadways, using sound amplification devices such as megaphones and dispersing when given a lawful command to do so.

"In the case of the June protests, we had things where people were equipped intentionally to not be dispersed and that's the wearing of gas masks the umbrellas, the hard-shell signs. Those are all signs or signals to us that they have a plan to not disperse for us," he said.

Johnson explained the Huntsville Police Department begins preparing for protests as soon as they hear about the possibility.

'We'd be neglectful if we weren't prepared. If we did have an episode where a protest that did assemble began to become unruly or actually violent or damaging property, we can't wait on these officers to leave their homes to be equipped. They have to already be equipped and be somewhere on site on close by," he said.

The department will bring in officers early and have others stay late. Johnson said protests are welcomed, but they want everyone to follow the rules, so no one gets hurt.

"We welcome protests, but we just want them to understand when you come to protests be careful not to infringe on others rights. Like blocking the roadways, you're not allowing vehicles or traffic to freely maneuver around on the road ways or you're using sound amplification devices bothering other businesses or residents and citizens that are on the streets and sidewalks," he said.

Johnson said they do work with organizations to allow protesters to march in the streets for some period of time. However, he said if marching goes on for an extended period of time and is blocking traffic that's when the department will ask protesters to stop and disperse.

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