Picketers in Stanford turned away for lack of permit

August 13, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Pickets and paraders in the city limits will now have to file for a permit, though only last week was the decision made by city council members to enforce the long-standing ordinance.

The lack of suddenly necessary paperwork surprised one group Thursday morning, disbanded by Police Chief Keith Middleton as they organized outside the Courthouse Annex.

Last Thursday the group protesting family court Judge Debra Lambert's alleged abuse of the bench picketed outside the courthouse without interference from police. However, after it was brought to the attention of city council members that the picketing blocked the sidewalk, forcing several people to walk through traffic, they decided to research the ordinance and found that a permit was required.

Middleton told the group they had to "jump through the hoops," to legally protest in city limits. Until a permit was obtained, at least five days in advance, the group couldn't chant, hold signs or otherwise picket.


It had been his decision last week not to interfere, said Middleton, because he was unsure of the ordinance. But, after it was researched by City Attorney Carol Hill, Middleton was told it was his duty to enforce that ordinance. This excludes city-sponsored functions such as the car cruise-in each month.

Carrie Shultz, president of Concerned Citizens for a Better Family Court, said they hadn't realized a permit was needed, after being allowed to meet last week.

"We're bound and determined - I'm sick and it's raining - to picket somewhere in Stanford today," Shultz said, though the group did later decide to reschedule for better weather.

Other pickets were dismayed by the sudden turn of policy.

"It's enforceable when they want to enforce it," said Trenton Cox.

According to city council member Jayme Phillips, the decision was not meant to target one group, but rather to provide for the safety of citizens trying to enter the courthouse. It was also not a decision made from pressure by Judge Lambert to squelch protests against her, said Phillips.

"From my understanding, it has always been an ordinance," Phillips confirmed. "To my knowledge, Judge Lambert has not said nothing to the city council or the mayor I've not talked to Debra Lambert."

Schultz said her group would not be deterred in their fight against Lambert.

They will "get a permit today," said Schultz. "Nothing is going to stop us."

"It wasn't anything against them," said Phillips. "I don't even know them."

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