Charlottesville fines protest organizers for violating COVID-19 ordinances, occupying city parks without permits

Charlottesville fines protest organizers for violating COVID-19 ordinances, occupying city parks without permits

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Less than 24 hours before protesters were set to take to the streets once again, Charlottesville City Hall announced it would begin fining demonstration organizers for violating city ordinances.

For nearly three months, demonstrators have been gathering in the streets, and sometimes parks, of Charlottesville. Now, the city is reminding citizens that if they violate city ordinances on COVID-19 or about gathering in city parks without a permit, they will be issued a citation.

“We are, you know, reminding people a little more strongly at this point because the events happening, they’re happening in city parks, they’re happening on city streets,” City Spokesperson Brian Wheeler said. “We want to make sure that as people exercise their First Amendment rights that they do so in appropriate numbers, and they take appropriate precautions.”

The city said that, as cases keep rising and with a protest scheduled for August 28, they felt like it was time for a reminder.

“What we felt like we had to do was make sure they understood that there could be consequences if there are more than 50 people,” Wheeler explained. “If they use a city park there could be a citation related to the use of the city facility without a permit.”

The city is also sending out citations to the organizers of past events. The organizers of the celebration in Washington Park on Juneteenth are being cited. The Black Joy Fest on August 8 and the Reclaim the Park event on August 12 is also under review.

Wheeler pushed back against the claims that the city is retroactively applying citations to those events. Instead, he says the review process has been underway since the events occurred.

“For example, the organizers of Juneteenth: we told them that if they held their event, June 19, we told them beforehand, ’You will likely be cited for using the park,’ and now we’re to the point where we reviewed that what happened, what we communicated,” Wheeler said.

The city has reached out to the organizers of Friday’s march protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake, letting them know of the chance of a citation. The organizers did not respond for comment on the story.

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