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Salisbury Police chief: No more demonstrations at Confederate monument

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

A few days after groups held opposing demonstrations at the site of a Confederate monument, Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins said Thursday no individual or group will be allowed to enter any portion of the roadway or median on or near the statue.

On Sunday, a group of about 24 people stood and sat at the base of the memorial, located at the intersection of West Innes and South Church streets, waving Confederate flags.

A counter-demonstration of about the same size was held at the corner of East Innes and South Long streets later the same day. The men waved the Pan-African flag, held up signs and shouted “black power,” “wake up now” and “black lives matter.” When the group rallied again Monday evening, some of the members marched to the Confederate monument and stood on the base of it.

Collins said in a statement issued Thursday that the department has reviewed the events, which contained “flash mob demonstrations.” He said they had not occurred in Salisbury previously and were a new experience for police officers.

“As a result, several aspects of these demonstrations could have been handled differently by our staff, and we are using these shortcomings as a learning experience moving forward,” Collins said.

Collins allowed both Sunday rallies to go on without the required 48-hour advanced notice for a permit he said, because both demonstrations were peaceful.

Scott Teamer, president of the local NAACP chapter, questioned heavy police presence at the second Sunday demonstration, where a group of African-American men gathered. Teamer said only one officer oversaw the first group who gathered around the Confederate monument.

Collins issued guidelines that he felt were “important for the public to be reminded of.” The guidelines are as follows:

• Any group demonstrations in the future will require permitting through the Police Department.

• Even with a permit in hand, no individual will be allowed to enter into any portion of the roadway or median, nor will they be permitted to be on or near the Confederate monument, which is in a state Department of Transportation right of way. The posting of flags, signs or symbols at or near these areas will not be permitted.

Collins went on to say the department takes very seriously “the preservation of First Amendment rights for all individuals and will always do its best to protect the individual rights of all citizens.”

He said the permit process enables the department to ensure that people can exercise their rights in a safe and legal manner.

Collins said the sidewalk is the only place individuals or groups would be permitted, and it would be spelled out specifically in the permit they obtain from the police department.

He added that the ordinance revisions have not yet been made. However, the law allows law enforcement to set parameters around demonstrations, such as timing and location.

“To enter into the median most certainly is a safety concern, as West Innes Street is one of our main thoroughfares and a great deal of traffic uses that roadway,” Collins said.

City Manager Lane Bailey said he has had ongoing conversations with Collins about this issue, but added it won’t be on the agenda at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Bailey said at some point the city will look at the ordinance as it relates to permits for this type of event.

He said the monument is in the public right of way and the street itself is a state Department of Transportation right of way. While the median “may be the city’s property,” it is not an area that is safe to hold a demonstration. Bailey added the median wouldn’t even be a safe place for a group to stand in order to raise money for a cause.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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