Activists concerned new ordinance violates First Amendment rights

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis activists say their right to free speech is under attack.

This comes as the Memphis City Council looks at more formal regulations for things like protests and parades.

In front of MLK 50 banners that read "I am Memphis," a group of activists says they are fighting to maintain the right to peaceful protest in the City of Memphis.

"It is hypocritical to do it like this to try to enact these laws," said Al Lewis with the Coalition of Concerned Citizens.

Tuesday, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens expressed anxiety about an ordinance making its way to city council chambers. The ordinance sets guidelines for parades, races, and public assemblies.

Activist Keedran Franklin says the ordinance is vague and left his group with questions about the cost of permit fees and restrictions on planned protest. 

"There shouldn't even be an ordinance about protest, there shouldn't be an ordinance about assembly," Franklin said. "They could have kept it toward marches and races."

However, City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd points out the ordinance does not take away, but it adds to the ordinance currently on the books. 

"They are saying we are taking their First Amendment rights, so and so forth, it's the furthest from the truth," Boyd said.

Boyd says the new notification requirements do not apply to public assembly, and the price for permits will remain the same.

But for any concerned citizens with questions about the ordinance, Boyd says his door is always open.

"It's a win-win for the protesters or those who want the right to assemble," Boyd said.

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