On Monday night, the Charlotte City Council voted on several proposed ordinances that were proposed in the wake of Occupy Charlotte and in preparation for the upcoming Democratic National Convention this September. Those ordinances, which can be found here, cause many everyday, innocuous objects to become contraband should the City Manager declare an “extraordinary event.”
For example, when an extraordinary event is declared, police will have the power to detain a person carrying an “object of sufficient weight that may be used as a projectile.” Ch. 15 Art. XIV Sec. 15-313(c)(2). The breadth of this provision is vast. Just about any object, a cell phone for example, could potentially be a projectile. According to Ch. 15 Art. XIV Sec. 15-313(c)(4), police would be justified in arresting a citizen for carrying a permanent marker should the officer decide to do so. Someone can even be arrested for walking their dog should they happen to stray within the boundaries of the extraordinary event. Ch. 15 Art. XIV Sec. 15-313(c)(17). Some other items outlawed during an extraordinary event include helmets, bottles, and police scanners. A frequently raised question regarding many of these prohibitions is why existing laws are insufficient to stop the illegal acts that the new ordinances are intended to abolish. This question went unanswered.
The ordinances also strike a blow at the well-established Occupy Charlotte campsite. The settlement, which was established in September of 2011, will be disbanded under these ordinances. Under Ch. 15 Art. I Sec.15-26(b), “it shall be unlawful for anyone to camp on any public property owned by the city.” This provision is not subject to the extraordinary event declaration, so will take full effect as of the effective date of the ordinances.
Two last-minute amendments were added before the ordinances were approved. The Council decided that the ordinances would be “reviewed,” but not necessarily modified or revoked after the upcoming presidential inauguration. The second amendment temporarily stayed the effective date until January 30 in the hopes that Occupy Charlotte protestors would vacate voluntarily before that time. From the reaction of the public in attendance, it seems unlikely that a voluntary departure will take place.
Calls for the Council to delay voting on the ordinances for 30 days to allow further discussions with community groups went unanswered.
The ordinances were approved 10 to 1. In the interest of accountability, the Council Members that voted to approve the ordinances were Michael Barnes, Beth Pickering, David Howard, LaWana Mayfield, Warren Cooksey, Andy Dullin, Patrick Cannon, Claire Green Fallon, James Mitchell, and Patsy Kinsey. The sole councilman that stood against these overly broad and potentially unconstitutional ordinances was John Autry.
The newly approved ordinances will almost surely be subject to legal challenge in the coming days. The Clinic will keep our blog updated with important developments as they emerge.