Tupelo Emphasizes Policy On Protests

TUPELO, MS ( WCBI) – Two unscheduled but peaceful protests in Tupelo is leading the city to clarify its policy on parades, marches and other gatherings.  A group of citizens supporting the family of Ronnie Shumpert gathered at Crosstown last night holding signs.  Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aquirre addressed the group last night about the lack of a permit and one misdemeanor citation was issued .  Today the city released the following guidelines on how and where future protests could be held.

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The city of Tupelo believes the right of people to assemble peacefully is an important part of the democratic process, and we will make every effort to accommodate those who wish to have their voices heard and exact change in our society.

However, the safety of all citizens and property is the top priority for the City of Tupelo. To ensure the safety of pedestrians, the city has requested that people not congregate in the high traffic area in the vicinity of the intersection of Gloster and Main Streets. The sidewalks and green space in that area cannot accommodate large numbers of people who gather there.

“The amount of traffic flow, along with the train crossing, makes it very dangerous for people to gather in that area,” said Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton. “There are many areas that aren’t as dangerous where permits can be obtained to assemble.”

In order for the city to effectively support those who wish to assemble, they need to understand and follow the process in place to register for a permit with the city. That process, found in the Code of Ordinances of the City of Tupelo, is laid out as follows:

• It is unlawful to organize or hold, or to assist in organizing or holding, or take part or participate in any parade, procession, or other public demonstration on the streets or other public ways of the city, unless a permit has been secured from the chief of police.

• To secure a permit, written application must be made to the chief of police, including the probable number of persons and vehicles which will be participating, the purpose for which it is to be held, and the streets or other public ways which it is desired to have or hold such parade, procession or other public demonstration. This can be obtained through either the Office of Development Services or directly from the Police Department.

• The chief of police shall grant a written permit for such parade, procession or other public demonstration, prescribing the streets or other public ways which may be used, unless he finds the conduct of the parade will unreasonably interfere with proper fire and police protection.

• If the application is denied, the city may authorize the conduct of the public assembly on a date, at a time, or over a route different from that named by the applicant.

Any attempts to circumvent the lawful conduct of peaceful demonstrations will not be tolerated.

“We will continue to support first amendment rights, but first and foremost we are charged with the safety of all people. We will use all means at our disposal to ensure the safety and security of our community,” said Chief Bart Aguirre, chief of the Tupelo Police Department.

Among the activities listed as violations in the municipal and state code are:

• Intentionally obstructing or interfering with the normal use and passage of vehicles on any public street or highway shall be deemed a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than four hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than four months, or by both.

• Interfering with the owner or operator of a place of business or prospective customers from frequenting a place of business shall be guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both.

• Intent to provoke a breach of peace by failing to comply with or obey a request, or command, or order of a law enforcement officer shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by both.

• Use of abusive, profane, vulgar or indecent language shall be punished as a misdemeanor.

Section 1-8 of the municipal code also states that “where no specific penalty is provided, the violation of any such provision of this code or ordinance of the city shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or by imprisonment in the city jail not exceeding ninety (90) days or both. Every day any violation of this Code or any such ordinance shall continue shall constitute a separate offense.”

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