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Birmingham designates park for protests amid ban on demonstrations elsewhere

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin speaking during a press conference.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Wednesday said the city has selected a park where those who wish to hold demonstrations may do so. 

Woodfin’s statement Wednesday followed his amended proclamation of a state of emergency on Tuesday that enacted a city-wide curfew and banned demonstrations and marches on city roads and property while the proclamation remains in effect.

His new order did make an exception for any such event if the city issues a permit to allow such, however. 

Woodfin’s proclamation came after peaceful protests in Birmingham Sunday turned into spots of violence, with numerous fires and attacks on journalists. Birmingham demonstrators were joined by others protesting across the state, the nation and the world in recent days after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. 

Woodfin said in the Wednesday statement that the city has been in contact with the Birmingham Police Department, state officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

“We are aware of credible threats against the city, certain locations, individuals and protesters. We are taking the steps needed to protect our employees, our residents, our businesses and our protesters,” Woodfin said. 

“At the same time, I understand the community’s concerns regarding the temporary restrictions placed on public protests. Trust me, I hear you. Unfortunately, the tragic consequences of this week’s protests, occurring both on our streets and around the country, demonstrate a clear and present danger to the safety of our residents, including peaceful protesters,” he continued. “We want to balance the right to assembly with the absolute need for public safety. Therefore the city has provided guidance for peaceful demonstrations.” 

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Woodfin said the city has identified W.C. Patton Park as a designated area for “permitted demonstrations or vigils from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the state of emergency and while the curfew is in place.” 

“This is our creative solution to ensure freedom of speech while reducing public safety risks. Those seeking a permit to hold a demonstration or vigil should call 205.254.2556,” Woodfin said. “The intent is to end the current curfew Monday, June 8, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. but may be extended due to circumstances.”

The ACLU of Alabama earlier on Wednesday in a message to APR said that the ban on all demonstrations on city property runs counter to the city’s history of protest and of the U.S. Constitution. 

“Banning all demonstrations, marches, vigils, or parades is government overreach, plain and simple. It is unconstitutional to retaliate against protesters by banning future protests because of past protest activity,” said Randall marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, in a statement.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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