A Slippery Slope?

12

On February 6, the Great Falls City Commission will vote on Ordinance 3170, a piece of municipal law that I feel could interfere with our Constitutional right to peaceful assembly within city limits.

The ordinance seems innocuous until one delves further into it and finds a whole new section entitled: “Chapter 14.5 PARADES, PROCESSIONS, FUN RUNS AND STREET CLOSURES”

In this chapter, city plans to redefine virtually all events on city streets and sidewalks as “processions” and place further restrictions on those events.

For simplicity of explanation, I’ve only included the text from the ordinance which show the changes I feel could have grave consequences for residents of and visitors to Great Falls. Text in quotations is taken from the ordinance—the strike-through text is eliminated by the ordinance and the bolded text is added. The full text of the ordinance can be found here.

Here is the city’s new, very inclusive definition of “procession.” Note that the city includes “assembly to support a cause” in their definition of a “procession.” Remember that for later.

Here is the city’s new, very inclusive definition of “procession.” Note that the city includes “assembly to support a cause” in their definition of a “procession.” Remember that for later.

“12.145.010 Definitions.

The following words and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the following meanings respectively ascribed to them.:

A. ”Parade“Procession” means any march, parade, motorcade, fun run, assembly to support a cause, or procession other event consisting of people, animals, or vehicles, or combination thereof, except funeral processions, upon any public street, sidewalk or alley, which does not comply with normal and usual traffic regulations and controls and is expressly designed for the enjoyment safety and involvement of the public as well as the participants, which is approved by the City under the provisions of this chapter.

The following section of the ordinance sets forth the application process for the all inclusive “procession.”

“12.145.050 Application – contents.

A. Any person, firm, corporation, or other entity desiring who wants to conduct a parade, procession, band practice, or fun run, as defined in OCCGF 12.5.010, shall apply to the Park and Recreation Department for a permit at least one (1) month forty-five (45) calendar days in advance of the event date.and comply with the provisions set forth in such permit….”

What exactly is “an assembly to support a cause?” Could it be a spur-of-the-moment peaceful protest, folks with signs and such? That sounds plausible.

So under this ordinance, would such protests become illegal unless the group applied for the permit 45 days in advance and received city approval? It certainly seems to take away the people’s ability take quick action to peacefully assemble and speak in public for or against an issue. It just feels wrong for the city to do this.

Perhaps more troubling is what follows the above paragraph in the ordinance:

“B. Park and Recreation Department may approve, revise, or deny the application in consideration of the following factors:

  1. Promotion of the community as a whole;
  2. Provision of positive civic and economic benefit;
  3. Impact on neighboring business and properties;
  4. Impact on public uses, safety, and services;
  5. Consideration of frequency of closures;
  6. Consideration of the event’s financial impact; and
  7. The applicant’s performance under prior issued permits.”

With “promotion of the community as a whole” and “provision of positive civic and economic benefit” the city is making itself judge and jury on whether your cause, your protest, your event is appropriate and consequently, whether it will be allowed.

This is a slippery slope that the city shouldn’t be trying to scale.

SHARE
Previous article“Incredibly Unappealing”
Next articleWhere’s Deletin’ Dave Sherman When You Need Him?
Jeni Dodd is a creative, multi-faceted, multi-talented, knowledge junkie. She currently utilizes her skills in a variety of business and artistic endeavors. Liberty, integrity, truth and critical thinking are among her most important precepts.

12 COMMENTS

  1. City Commission Update:

    The city commission passed Ordinance 3170 tonight, and they also voted to put the Great Falls Park District back on the ballot in May.

    I was at the meeting and spoke up against Ordinance 3170. On the parks district creation, I stated that while I agree with letting the people decide by vote, I was opposed to more taxes to create this park district. Yet both local tv stations chose to state that NO ONE SPOKE OUT AGAINST THE PARK DISTRICT! Really? I guess I’m no one!

    Maybe it is beyond the reporters’ understanding that someone is okay with putting the parks district to the vote of the people, yet not support it. They are two very different things. Reporters should be able to get this right. It’s just further proof of the inaccuracies of our local news sources.

    I plan to write more on my perspective of what happened at this meeting, so stay tuned.

  2. It very definitely puts limits on our First Amendment freedoms. Right out of the Socialist’s playbook! Now let us all see which City Commission members define themselves as Socialists!

  3. Wow. Just how much money is the city willing to lose on lawsuits? You would think that after the Susan Overfield affair they wouldn’t do stupid stuff again right away. I would advise them to look at Plummer v. State. You see, the Supreme Court has ruled that an individual has the RIGHT to resist an illegal arrest. Someone will have the balls to do it. And if the PD doesn’t kill them first, it’s lawsuit time! But this change is simply stupid. Which one of their brilliant attorneys came up with this nonsense? I have protested many times, and I don’t feel like being removed for it. Stupid, stupid move on their part. I can’t wait! I could use three million myself!

    • Hi Larry. Mr. Cik gave the presentation on it but don’t know if he or Sexe came up with it. I asked them a simple question last night: “In what way does this ordinance preserve our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly?

      The only answer I got was, and this isn’t verbatim but close: It’s not intended to prevent people from protesting, it’s merely a traffic control thing. But if you look at the language of ordinance, it appears to me it COULD be used to prevent protests IF they wanted to do so. The way it reads to me, the city could deem a protest a public safety problem and shut it down.

      It’s government overreach, just like last year when they passed Ordinance 3148 “[amended] OCCGF §1.4.070 that would allow the city to ban violators from entering or remaining upon City property for a period not to exceed one year.

      “C. Any person convicted of a violation of this Code, the Montana Code Annotated, or is determined by the City Manager, or his designee, to be behaving in a disorderly or abusive manner, on the property of the City of Great Falls may be banned from entering, or remaining upon, said property for a period not to exceed one year.”

      https://greatfallsmt.net/sites/default/files/fileattachments/ordinance/126191/ord3148.pdf

      When the city commission passed that last year, I was at the meeting and spoke out against it. I expressed that I was concerned that it would quell free speech and that this commission or a future commission would use it against people that said things they didn’t like. I may have even mentioned the Overfield incident.

      They had the same very response, it wasn’t intended to be used that way. Well, intentions and actions are two different things! Needless to say, I’ve VERY CONCERNED about the recent changes the commission has made and is making to the city code.

      On the tv stations’ park district coverage , I called both KRTV and KFBB last night to tell them their coverage was incorrect. There was a person who spoke out against taxation for the park district–me. I asked them to call me back because I wanted a correction. As of now….crickets.

  4. In the above, I meant to add to the following sentence:
    The way it reads to me, the city could deem a protest a public safety problem and shut it down,

    this:
    not for any real public safety issue, but merely for not getting a permit.

    BTW, the city has given itself 45 days to grant or deny an permit, so how does that work for spur of the moment protests?

    • Jen, please stay on them. I’m serious here. I don’t WANT to end up in jail, but I probably will under this new bullshit. You see, I like to protest, and I believe in it. Thanks.

    • Jesus. This one is freakin’ Great Falls! Ya gotta wonder where this is coming from. What the hell are they worried about? Are we terrorists now?

  5. Ms Jeni and sir Larry !!
    It does appear that our present commission is a tad FULL of themselves and quite self important and a tad more liberal than necessary. In history we remember a certain fellow, Karl Marx, in his writings he is quote as “Change for changes sake is the bases for Communism”. Certainly we are not there yet, but could we be driving in that direction ? Perhaps I am wrong but only my thoughts and a look over the shoulder to see history played out on our field.If I am wrong PLEASE tell me so !!

    • Not wrong. For the life of me I can’t figure out just what the hell problem they’re trying to “fix” with this new law! And how will we know if we’re violating it? Are the cops going to be the new arbiters of free speech? Jesus, if that’s the case I’ll be in jail again real soon! They owe us an explanation, a very specific explanation as to what precipitated this nonsense. It just seems goofy. A friend tells me that it’s designed to lock up all opponents to the slaughterhouse, and he may be right!

  6. Might be time for a flash mob type deal to see how this will be “enforced.” I’m no legal scholar but this seems to infringe on the right to peacefully assemble. Of course, under Communism, the Soviet citizens had the right to assemble. They could only have no more than five people assemble.

  7. Good call, former mayor Winters. And the slaughterhouse opponents are among the first I thought of when I saw this Ordinance 3170.

    I might not agree with everything that Nikokakalos and his group are saying but they darn well should be able gather together on the streets to say it and protest if they want to, without governmental interference!

    So this whole thing with these ordinances that change the city code seemed to start early in 2017. I was at a commission meeting when Cik gave a short presentation about the city’s push to “clean up” the city code, because it’s full of inconsistencies and errors. There’s been quite a few “changes” since then.

    I think that presentation was meant to pacify the public by claiming the “corrections” are not substantive. In others words, don’t look here, nothing to see. But indeed, it seems to me and others, that the changes are substantive; the changes are changing policies and laws. How can that not be substantive?

    Ordinance 3148 (passed 2017) allows the city (city manager) to ban someone from city property for breaking ANY city code, ANY portion of the Montana Code Annotated or if someone from the city deems your behavior is DISORDERLY OR ABUSIVE. It was supposedly brought about by a abusive incident at the library. I don’t know all the details. My understanding is that a homeless person feel asleep at the library, was asked to leave and got belligerent. They used that incident to justify this all-inclusive ordinance, which makes no sense.

    When I spoke during public comment, I mentioned there’s already loitering and disorderly conduct laws on the books; couldn’t they have just used that to have law enforcement remove the person. I was told that they couldn’t use those for this incident at library. What? I don’t understand that one bit! Also, what if the sleeping person suffered from PSTD? Being startled awake might triggered an overreaction in such a person, so maybe a little understanding was in order. I don’t know.

    I asked them what would stop the city from abusing its power with Ordinance 3148 in the manner of the Overfield incident. Their answer was, the ordinance is not intended to be used that way.

    I don’t care what they say their INTENT is for these over-reaching ordinances–ONCE THEY’RE IN PLACE, THEY CAN BE USED TO ABUSE.

    I feel like Great Falls residents are like frogs in a pot of water slowing heating on the stove, many won’t won’t realize the trouble they’re in until its too late.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here