The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday tabled a plan to put new restrictions on parades and public gatherings after an outcry from event organizers and civil rights groups.
The proposal, sponsored by Council President Amy Brendmoen, would have required a permit for assemblies of five or more people while prohibiting shields, glass bottles, balloons and other ordinary items that could be used as weapons.
"It is clear to me that the level of community input and engagement that we expect was not met before the ordinance was introduced," Brendmoen said in a social media post announcing her plans to withdraw the ordinance at Wednesday's council meeting.
Numerous critics of the ordinance said it infringed on constitutional rights of assembly and expression while doing little to address public safety. The measure said nothing about armed protesters — city officials don't have the authority to override state law on gun permits — but focused on the sticks used to carry posters, laser pointers, rocks, bricks, open flame torches, swords, knives, box cutters, balloons that could be filled with noxious liquids, Tasers and mace. The proposal seemed likely, in the view of some critics, to be used by police to target gatherings of Black and brown people.
"It also is incredibly irresponsible and callous to ask protesters to come to protests without the option to bring a shield without asking police to curtail their use of weapons like rubber bullets and batons, given that at least two people that I know of have lost their eyes to police attacks in the last year," wrote St. Paul resident Carrie Pomeroy in an objection filed on the council's website.
Others said the proposal discriminated against the poor because it required a paid permit in order to protest.
The proposal made note of violent street protests that have taken place in recent years in Charlottesville, Va., St. Louis, and Minneapolis and St. Paul. It came days before the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is scheduled to begin — jury selection starts March 8.
Brendmoen, in her statement, urged the St. Paul Police Department and City Attorney's Office to rework the proposed ordinance's language to address concerns.
"New language can return to council for consideration once that process is complete," she wrote.
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329