Activists cry foul over proposal they say would criminalize activism

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Activists say a proposal before Memphis' City Council unlawfully restricts their rights.

Some say the controversial measure essentially gives the city broader authority to shut down public rallies.

From the Hernando DeSoto Bridge to the Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue at Health Sciences Park, Memphis has seen its share of protests.

George Boyington is with the Tennessee Young Democrats Grassroots Caucus. He says city government is taking steps to shut down these types of demonstrations.

"It criminalizes anyone who decides to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech," Bovington said. "That's not right."

Councilman Reed Hedgepeth introduced a proposal at the last city council meeting. According to Boyington, it reaffirms the police director's right to cancel any permit.

Bovington also says it affirms the power of police to arrest protestors.

"It affirms his right to special tactics that are very broad and open to any type of interpretation," Bovington said.

Several grassroots groups are meeting on Saturday at 3 p.m. at First Congregational Church in Midtown. Lawmakers and the public are also invited. The discussion will center on the implications of the proposal.

We reached out to Councilman Hedgepeth for comment on his proposal and have not yet heard back. It's still unclear whether he'll show up to Congregational Church on Saturday for the meeting.

The proposal is set to be back in front of city council at its next meeting on December 5.

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