A Gainesville councilman who proposed changes to the city’s assembly rules has backed off the idea.
Councilman George Wangemann told council members Thursday that after a discussion with the city’s police Chief Frank Hooper, he no longer saw a need to change the city’s assembly rules.
Wangemann previously said the rules were arguably unconstitutional, and asked that the City Council consider revising them.
Other City Council members and Hooper said they had never heard any complaints about the city’s permitting process for pickets and rallies. City Manager Kip Padgett said the council likely would discuss the issue with City Attorney James E. "Bubba" Palmour and Hooper at a May work session, but Wangemann said Thursday that the discussion would no longer be necessary.
"I have to admit I was wrong," Wangemann told council members Thursday. "I didn’t remember that I was wrong until he (Hooper) reminded me what it takes to get a permit."
"I apologize, and I don’t know that any discussion is going to be necessary unless you all feel differently."
Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras said she also did not think any revision was necessary.
"What we’ve got, I think, is working," Figueras said.
The City Council adopted a more stringent picketing policy in September 1992 because it was having problems with the Ku Klux Klan, Wangemann said.
The ordinances now require picketers to first get a permit from the police department and outline when and where demonstrations can occur. The rules relegate picketers to the 5 feet of the sidewalk closest to the curb and keeps protests from occurring within so many feet of schools, hospitals or nursing homes.
The rules also forbid children younger than 16 to miss school to participate in a protest unless the child has the school’s permission and forbids their signs from having metal or wood attached to them.
Wangemann suggested that the city consider revising the rules at a council meeting last month after former Hall County GOP Chairman Paul Stanley complained that the rules were excessive and required too many permits.
The city requires that those holding rallies or protests apply for a permit with the police department and require a separate permit for voice amplification devices such as bullhorns.
Hooper said, however, that the permitting process usually can be completed electronically within 24 hours — at most two or three days — and mainly is for public safety reasons.