At WSCO, we join our voice with other concerned community members around Saint Paul in issuing the following statement about a proposed City Council ordinance that would make changes to the rules about special events.
You Can Not Extinguish Our Light
Protect Public Assembly and Community Gathering in St. Paul
Whether in protest or celebration, joy or pain, coming together in public space to raise our voices is how we shed light on injustice and ignite our collective power. But, once again, the St. Paul City Council is poised to consider changes to how events are permitted and policed, giving more power to law enforcement and city officials.
For the second time this year, a city council member is putting forward deeply troubling ideas to restrict free speech and expand police discretion to target Black and brown people. In March, we mobilized against Ordinance 21-6, and city council leaders reversed course and promised that any future changes would include community input. Now, we see Councilmember Rebecca Noecker putting forward a proposal during the heart of the holiday season, without any advance input from communities that have been vocal and visible on this issue.
Noecker is attempting to justify this proposal as a way to get large events, like the Twin Cities Marathon, to pay their fair share of the costs of closing streets and providing law enforcement. But this proposal would institute new burdensome processes that demand community events get a city permit 90 (instead of 60) days in advance, institute higher fees and increase requirements to pay for police. This could hamper our community organizations by potentially imposing costs on low-income and marginalized residents, and force us to foot the bill for policing that undermines community security plans that keep protestors and residents safe.
They are arguing that this proposal creates an exemption for public assemblies, but it would create problematic changes, including:
- Requiring organizers give the police 7-day notice about public assemblies, which is both unreasonable and unjust
- Instituting new limitations for public assemblies and community events to not block sidewalks, streets or “movement,” a vague concept that could be used by police to restrict, contain or arrest folks at protests or demonstrations
- Adding a new clause to prohibit “offensive” language and “noisy” or “boisterous” behavior that could "disturb" others, which could be weaponized against community members raising our voices against injustice
- Making it a misdemeanor to organize or attend any event that should have gotten a permit
- Specifically exempting police-sponsored National Night Out block parties from fees when city permitting processes are supposed to be fair and neutral when it comes to rules in city ordinances.
We will not allow city officials to extinguish our light. Our leaders should be working to make it easier for us to make our voices heard and come together in community in ways that are safe from the harassment and harm of police with a long history of disproportionate harm against Black and Indigenous residents and and residents of color.
- The City Council must reject these overly broad restrictions on public assemblies and community gatherings.
- City officials must clean their own house! We demand that city officials investigate racism in the St. Paul Police Department and hold racist officers accountable.
- The St. Paul Police Department must implement stricter policies regarding police use of force at protests and impose consequences on law enforcement officers who attack protesters without provocation.
This ordinance could be introduced in a “first reading” in the city council as soon as early January 2022. Please join us in calling or writing to your St. Paul City Council members today:
West Siders: contact our Councilmember Rebecca Noecker, 651-266-8620, [email protected]
If you live elsewhere in St. Paul, you can look up your representative here.
The following public officials also need to hear from us! All of them say that they are committed to building relationships and trust with community, promoting racial justice, and making St. Paul safer. Please call or write to them to let them know this proposed ordinance does not make St. Paul safer, it does not build trust or relationships, and it does NOT promote racial justice in our communities!
Mayor Carter 651-266-8989 or [email protected]
City Attorney Lyndsey Olsen 651-266-8710 or [email protected]
St. Paul Chief of Police Todd Axtell 651-266-5588 or [email protected]
December 20 Town Hall
On Monday, December 20th, 2021, community members held a virtual town hall to discuss these proposed changes and what we can do together to ensure that the right to public assembly is protected. Click here to watch the recording of the meeting.