Oxford safety proposal violates 1st Amendment, business says

OXFORD, MS (WMC) - New safety regulations could soon be coming to Oxford, Mississippi.

City leaders said they are advocating new policies to maintain safe restaurants, bars, and businesses at Oxford Square.

However, some businesses said the proposed law violates their rights.

The proposed ordinance in Oxford would create a Downtown Entertainment District surrounding the Square in Oxford. The ordinance would also include strict safety rules for businesses in that district.

The ordinance forces those businesses to install multiple surveillance cameras, scan and store IDs of patrons and employees--all of which would be made available to law enforcement upon request--and give the chief of police the power to give out permits for events performances.

The Lyric, a performing arts theatre on the Square isn't happy. In a Facebook post, it called the ordinance a "gross violations of the First Amendment and an individual's right to privacy."

The post goes on to say, "We believe you shouldn't sacrifice your right to privacy in a private business just because you walk into a business within the proposed district."

The Lyric called the ordinance a knee-jerk reaction to a shooting that happened inside their business on April 27. In that shooting, a man shot a gun into the ceiling during a fight. No one was injured.

According to the proposed ordinance the Oxford police chief would have the power to review permits for events and could deny them for two reasons:

  • The potential for overcrowding because of the time of the event or conflicts with other nearby activities
  • Safety concerns at past similar events at the same location, other events involving that performer or a likelihood that the event would result in injury or damage to people or property.

WMC Action News 5 called every Oxford Alderman and Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill several times regarding this ordinance, but none of them were available for an interview Monday.

The Oxford Chief of Police also declined to comment on the proposed ordinance.

Tuesday, the ordinance will undergo its second reading at a City Alderman meeting. If the ordinance passes Tuesday's reading, it must still make it past a third reading.

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