CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR)-Community activists are speaking out after the city of Charlottesvile announced plans to issue citations to organizers of the Juneteenth celebration and protest organizers.
Some say they understand the policy, while others have questions.
”The magnitude of the moment, I think the city is overlooking when they go back and, especially retroactively, try to institute these fines,” activist Don Gathers said.
The city says it warned organizers about the fines before the events proceeded, but with police-involved shooting protests around the country, some say it is critical to take to the streets.
“It is important that people’s voices be heard right now. When you look at the events that have gone on in Charlottesville, I would think that we’ve come to learn that a silencing of those voices is not what’s best for the community,” Gathers said.
The city says the ordinances are about safety and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“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. We want to make sure that as people exercise their First Amendment rights that they do so in appropriate numbers, and they take appropriate precaution,” City of Charlottesville Spokesperson Brian Wheeler said.
Gathers says if COVID-19 is the concern, then issuing fines is not the solution.
“If that’s the concern, then the city should get out and make sure that everyone is masked, make sure that the event organizers ask that everyone is spaced appropriately,” he said.
In fact, some say the fines are unlikely to stop protests.
“That’s our natural right, regardless of the pandemic, if we want to protest, we have a right to protest,”activist Tanesha Hudson said.
That said, Hudson also says event organizers need to take personal responsibility,”
“You’re taking your own approach to saying, ’look, I don’t care what you all say. I’m going to block the street, regardless of what you say, I’m going to block the street, without your permission, I’m going to block the street and it’s a public safety hazard.’ You made a conscious decision to do that and you have to own that,” she said.