CHARLOTTE – Face masks, police scanners, paint guns and body armor, those are just a few of the items the city of Charlotte and police are considering banning during the Democratic National Convention as they work on revising city codes in anticipation of protests during the event in September.
Since Charlotte landed the DNC, city leaders and police have been reviewing ordinances to make sure they are adequate for the anticipated protests during the convention.
“We're always looking for opportunities to improve our laws and make them work better, smarter,” said Charlotte city attorney Bob Hagemann.
At their next meeting Monday, Charlotte City Council members will consider changes to the public assembly and picketing ordinances. One change includes allowing the city manager to declare an extraordinary event, where a specific set of rules would then go into effect.
A list of 17 specific categories would be banned, including masks or scarves worn to hide someone's identity while committing a crime, police scanners, and bookbags with the intent to carry weapons or banned items.
“The city has two goals in this process – one, give law enforcement the tools that it needs to protect the public and protect property, and No. 2, respect and protect the First Amendment rights of our citizens and our visitors,” Hagemann said.
Protestors like Cindy Sheehan, the military mom who gained attention for camping out at the White House, questions the government adding more restrictions.
“Protest, protesters and their message must be protected and supported as a sacred human right and more ordinances suppressing free speech must be viewed as non-democratic and counterproductive. The people are not going away,” she said.
While some critics say the new rules leave too much interpretation up to police, advocates argue that having clear-cut rules eliminates a lot of gray area.
None of the proposed changes are final until city council votes.