Protesters file complaint with ACLU against Stanford

August 30, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - A complaint against Stanford City Hall has been filed with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky by protesters who say the city's enforcement of an ordinance turning them away without a protest permit violated their First Amendment rights.

Concerned Citizens for a Better Family Court President Carrie Schultz alleges that the group's planned protest against Family Court Judge Debra Lambert was stopped Aug. 12 without due cause. Two weeks previously, the group had picketed outside the courthouse peacefully without a permit and had not been blocked.

But when they gathered for a second protest, Stanford Police Chief Keith Middleton approached the group as they were distributing picket signs and informed them the picket could not be held without a parade permit. The group had to "jump through the hoops" to legally protest on city property, Middleton said, meaning they needed to obtain a permit at least five days in advance to the picket. To hold a protest that morning, the group would have to remain outside city limits.


"We immediately put the picket signs back in my car. He told us that, once we got a permit, we would be designated to a certain place to picket," Schultz wrote in the complaint.

The group then proceeded to City Hall to obtain to a permit form and soon after disband for the day.

The complaint said the last time the ordinance was enforced was two years ago. At that time, the Ku Klux Klan rallied on Main Street after obtaining permission.

"I don't see any correlation between the Ku Klux Klan and Concerned Citizens for a Better Family Court," Schultz said Friday. Her group was organized with the intent to end radical behavior, not encourage it, Schultz said. She felt that being lumped together with the KKK was unfair.

City Council concerned about pickets blocking sidewalk

City Council members had asked City Attorney Carol Hill to look into the ordinance after they said the pickets were blocking the Main Street sidewalk during their earlier march. Pedestrians had difficulty getting in the doors to the courthouse and some were forced to walk on the streets, said council members.

In no way were the protesters turned away Aug. 12 as a favor to Judge Lambert, said Council Member Jayme Phillips at that time. The decision to uphold the ordinance was made strictly with the safety of citizens and pedestrians in mind, he said.

The ACLU of Kentucky does not, as a general policy, comment about complaints that it "has or has not received," said Beth Wilson, executive director of the organization.

However, she said that if a city requires a waiting period for protests and cordons a group off into a certain area that the ACLU "believes that has a chilling affect on freedom of speech."

Wilson said that it sometimes takes six to eight weeks before a complaint can be reviewed.

Mayor Eddie Carter said that Stanford had no intention of denying the citizens group the right to protest.

"They've got a right. Nobody's trying to stop them. That's one of the freedoms of our country," he said today in a telephone interview. "I think they are trying to make a problem where there isn't a problem."

Carter said he wasn't sure if all groups were required to have parade permits. The city has had Martin Luther King and Christmas parades.

The permits are free.

Carter said there are guidelines for protest, but that he would have to talk to the police chief to find out what they are. Middleton was unavailable this morning. Carter said he knew that one of the guidelines are that protesters cannot block police, fire or ambulance service, and cannot stop traffic.

He said the first protest was almost over before he knew about it.

"They probably didn't realize that they needed to get a permit (the first time.)"

Staff Writer Liz Maples contributed to this story.

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