UPDATE ABOUT 24 HOUR OPEN-AIR PUBLIC MTG.& MUSICAL PERFORMANCE

December 20, 2011 in News, Resources, Uncategorized

On Dec.19th, at 3:45pm, a 24 hour Open-Air Public Mtg. and Musical Performance was declared at City Hall. Although proper protocol of city ordinance was being followed, there were some difficulties getting the city to allow it. Finally, they did recognize that citizens were in compliance, as one participant read aloud Winston-Salem Ordinance Sec. 38-3-Open air meetings (d) and the city’s own written definition “to include the delivery of a public address, lecture, sermon or discourse, or the conducting of a public musical or theatrical performance”.

Later, at the W-S City Council meeting, there was discussion about changing City Hall property from public to private property. Some council members expressed concerns about needing input from the public prior to making such a decision, so it will be discussed again in early January.

While the city council meeting transpired, citizens continued to converse on a small, grassy area of City Hall lawn that had been roped off by officials. Throughout the evening and into the early morning hours, participants discussed issues, ideas and opinions as well as performed music, political satire and theatrical oral readings. Evening communication overall was positive with the police, even though they confiscated the 99% banner and said it would not be returned. In addition, the police had allowed the same banner to be used on Sat. Dec. 17 and Sun. Dec.18, The police took the banner into “evidence” and issued a warning because they said participants were breaking an ordinance as banners are not allowed downtown during the month of December. It should be noted individuals had complied with moving the banner half an hour earlier, at the request of police.

At approximately 8:45 am this morning, the Winston-Salem Police Department told individuals on City Hall lawn that their meeting did not match the city’s interpretation of 38-3-(d) and were given verbal trespassing warnings. They were told they would be arrested if they did not leave the lawn of City Hall. The police would not discuss why they were out of compliance of the “open-air meeting”. Participants left the public property, as they gathered chairs, guitars, notebooks, food, art supplies, posters, a cardboard box of trash, clarinet, flute, tambourine, a tarp and other personal belongings.

After leaving City Hall Lawn, one individual, who says his legal rights to free speech and assembly were violated, was arrested. According to eye witnesses, he did comply with police directive to leave City Hall public property, but he was pushed against the brick wall on the sidewalk and handcuffed for yelling profanity at the police.

PLEASE BE AWARE THAT INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED WITH THIS INCIDENT ARE ADVISED NOT TO GO TO CITY HALL PROPERTY FOR 30  DAYS AS CONSULTATION WITH COUNSEL CONTINUES AND CONCERNS ARE DISCUSSED AT A PUBLIC MEETING.

This is a sad and unfortunate day for Winston Salem. While we are deeply disappointed  by the actions of the police,  we shall overcome…

Please note this update contains the author’s personal opinions and own interpretation of the events described. Kim Porter wrote this update.

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