LMPD announces next steps to protect public safety and free speech amid Occupy ICE protest
After today’s peaceful protests downtown, the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) announced a series of steps designed to continue to provide a safe public environment and maintain the First Amendment right to free speech.
“We will continue to balance public safety with free speech, including what constitutes free speech. We have been accommodating to people’s right to free speech, but those protesting must also be in compliance with state and local laws,” said Police Chief Steve Conrad.
LMPD this afternoon advised protestors who have taken over a sidewalk in front of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building that LMPD legal counsel and the County Attorney concur that their presence has some protection under the First Amendment, but they must also be in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Kentucky state law KRS 525.140 that prohibits obstructing a highway or other public passage, such as a sidewalk.
Accordingly, for the protestors to stay in their present location, a compliant, four-foot sidewalk passageway at their encampment must be created.
These same guidelines would apply to any future group of protestors.
There have been a series of efforts to communicate with the Occupy ICE protestors. Since the protest began on July 2, LMPD contacted members of the group multiple times each day to provide safety information and attempt to begin a dialogue about concerns for their safety and that of the public. Those attempts at two-way communication were unsuccessful.
Chief Conrad noted that on July 3, LMPD asked them to apply for a permit, which would have allowed for legal protest during daytime hours, helped ensure public safety and allowed a process to be put in place for public hygiene facilities. Protestors, who would not identify a lead contact, would not apply for a permit.
If the protestors do not comply with today’s request, they will be given a written notice. If they continue to not comply, the City will seek legal relief.
“Our Constitution protects the right to peacefully protest, and I am pleased that today’s protest was legal and peaceful, underscoring that in the U.S., people can have different opinions and express those differences without violence,” said Mayor Fischer. “I am grateful to the men and women of Louisville Metro Police Department and our public safety partners for their planning, vigilance, professionalism and sacrifices to protect the rights of all involved parties. I am also grateful to the protestors today who were peaceful in their vigorous display of the First Amendment.”
Mayor Fischer noted the root of the Occupy ICE protest, which “once again highlights the need for Washington to finally overhaul our immigration laws to ensure safe borders, a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and to reform ICE so that immigrants and refugees are treated fairly and humanely. Our city welcomes immigrants, supports the right to peacefully protest and strongly opposes the separation of families.”
Chief Conrad closed by saying, “Given the presence of weapons on both sides today, there was a very real potential for violence. There remain public safety concerns, and we will continue to monitor the situation.”