Durham commissioners consider changes in rules for protesters

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Durham council consider new rules for protesters.

The protests in Durham that made headlines last August have the county's elected leaders considering new rules for demonstrators.

On the table: 48 hours' notice from groups who want to assemble on county property.

Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said social media spreads information about plans for protests so quickly that county authorities are not always able to plan for access to public buildings while ensuring the free-speech rights of demonstrators.

Some people who addressed the board of commissioners on Tuesday consider the two days' notice proposal a threat to their rights.

"I'm 74 years old! I've been to all of the mass civil rights demonstrations," said minister Rafiq Zaidi. "Every one of them, including King when my mother carried me to the King march. I will not sit down now! I will not see these young people, black, white, Jews or Gentiles, sit down."

An August letter to city and county lawmakers from Sheriff Mike Andrews asks for action that can ensure public safety while preserving the ability of citizens to assemble peacefully and speak out.

David Durr of the Inside Outside Alliance is skeptical of the rules.

"They were proposed by the sheriff in response to the toppling of the Confederate monument outside, which I think was a necessary thing that the public had to do, that the state prevented us from moving," he said.

Sheriff Andrews mentioned two people carrying weapons, spotted in the crowd last August, as a reason for rules that can help authorities plan for demonstrations.

County staff produced a draft document that mentions the two business days' notice, and the commissioners had many questions about that plan. They asked the deputy county manager and county attorney for clarification, but took no action during their work session.

"We heard a majority of the members of our board express concern about the 48 business hour timeline, and they've asked staff to go back and reconsider that, look at some other options," said board chair Wendy Jacobs.

Commissioner Reckhow said they're considering modifications of those hours, possibly reducing the notification requirement from 48 to 24 hours.

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politicsconfederate monumentprotestdurham county newsDurham CountyDurham
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