Decatur community urging city leaders to address changes to parade ordinance

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — A group of protesters held a rally in Decatur and although a permit is required, demonstrators went ahead as planned Friday evening without one.

Last month, Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling decided to enforce a decades-old ordinance after protests at his home. Friday’s demonstrations come after the police shooting death of Stephen Perkins last September.

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Protesters have been asking their council members to amend the city law for some time now.

Some in the community believe the current ordinance in place requiring a permit to demonstrate is a way to prevent protesters from expressing their freedom of speech.

Many have grown frustrated over what they’ve called a lack of urgency among city leaders in addressing a change to the ordinance that would allow them to protest without permission.

Friday night was another phase in the community’s ongoing battle for justice in the death of Stephen Perkins. The law in question is a parade ordinance passed in the late 1970s with some calling it a violation of their First Amendment rights.

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Despite the mayor saying the city would enforce the law, no arrests were made and no citations were written Friday evening.

The existing ordinance requires a permit in advance of demonstrations on streets, parks, and public places. However, some in a community like Alainah Dailey feel the language in that ordinance is largely unclear.

“They want us to be silent, that’s their definition of peaceful and our definition of peaceful is non-violent and we’re non-violent,” Dailey told News 19. “We always have been and we always will be because that’s who Steve Perkins was.”

Dailey along with other community members explained the need for city leaders to immediately address a change to that parade ordinance, while also adding the importance of the community continuing their fight.

“Passing this new parade is important because it gives clarification that in the city of Decatur, we are protecting First Amendment rights,” Dailey said.

“When they all get fired and one gets suspended, that means something went wrong. You can back the blue when they’re good, but you can’t back the blue when they’ve done something wrong,” she said.

A unanimous vote is needed to consider an amendment to the current parade ordinance, a vote that could come as early as Monday at Decatur’s next city council meeting.

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