Orange may restrict picketing in neighborhoods after protests at Chauvin’s townhouse

·3 min read

After a flash crowd assembled in front of the Windermere-area vacation home of the Minneapolis officer later convicted of killing George Floyd, Orange County Sheriff John Mina thought he could move the protest out of the residential neighborhood.

“Being the former chief of police in Orlando where we had an ordinance, [I thought], ‘They can’t be there. This is surely an ordinance violation,’ ” Mina said.

But the Sheriff learned it wasn’t – at least not in Orange.

At Mina’s request — and with support from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, a former sheriff and former Orlando police chief — county lawyers introduced an ordinance Tuesday to limit picketing in neighborhoods and keeping peaceful protesters away from homes.

“All it takes is the next flashpoint, the next controversy here, the next police shooting or whatever,” Mina said of protesters moving into neighborhoods.

The purpose of the ordinance is “to protect the well-being, tranquility and privacy of residents within their homes by prohibiting certain picketing activities” while not infringing on the rights to free expression, assistant county attorney Joy Carmichael said.

The ordinance would set limits for picketing at the home of a person who is a target of criticism, complaint or ridicule.

Assistant county attorney Joel Prinsell said it might forbid “just holding a sign in front of the house.”

Orlando and Winter Park have similar picketing restrictions on their books.

But commissioners seemed blind-sided by the proposed county ordinance.

“We are limiting people’s First Amendment rights,” said Commissioner Emily Bonilla, who wanted more time to consider the restrictions. “And it’s even more important that the people have the opportunity to comment on it. ... And by rushing this, we’re taking that away from people.”

Commissioner Mayra Uribe said she was troubled that the community wasn’t involved in the discussion.

“We know historically that different communities are treated differently,” she said.

The board voted to put off a decision until June 22 so the public would have more notice to be heard.

Crowds picketed last year from May 29 to June 6 on Brightland Street outside the Windermere-area townhouse owned by ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and his now-ex-wife Kellie after Floyd’s death, which sparked outrage and marches across the nation.

Chauvin knelt on the Black man’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds despite bystanders pleading for him to stop.

Mina said the protests outside Chauvin’s townhouse were “generally peaceful.”

“But there was vandalism. Two arrests were made. There were also threats on social media about burning that person’s house down,” the sheriff recalled. “We had probably, depending on the day and time of night, anywhere from 20 to 40 deputies out there because of the size of the crowd.”

Mina said he talked to the protesters face-to-face, some of whom stayed all night. He also talked with neighbors.

“They totally agreed with why the people were there,” he said. “But you can tell there was a little uneasiness in them.”

Some neighbors grew more concerned as protests lingered.

“They’re like, ‘Hey, I can’t even take my dog for a walk or I can’t let my 3-year-old out here on his tricycle,’ Mina said.

Carmichael said the proposed ordinance would allow deputies to move peaceful protesters from a residential neighborhood — something they can’t do lawfully now –– to another public location so demonstrators may express themselves.

“The public roadway is considered a traditional public forum where protesting and other assemblies occur,” she said.

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