Public protests no longer need town permits

Last modified: 1/7/2016 11:19:35 AM
GREENFIELD — Individuals and groups can now protest, hold a vigil or demonstrate on the Town Common without obtaining a permit from the town.

Town Council voted to unanimously Tuesday night in favor of a revision to the town ordinance, which will become part of Greenfield law immediately.

The biggest change to the town ordinance, which regulates all public assemblies, is that people will be allowed to assemble on town property, like the Town Common, without obtaining a permit. Until now, everyone who wanted to assemble had to do so after applying for a permit and going before the town’s Board of License Commissioners to obtain it.

At-large town councilors David Singer and Isaac Mass penned the revised ordinance with the help of Board of License Commissioner Chairman Scott Conti.

The town has been working on an update to the ordinance for about five years.

“It’s a good ordinance,” said Singer. “It’s a bipartisan ordinance.”

The authors said it would still be a good idea for people to get a permit if a group wants to assemble, because if there are any conflicts among groups or individuals, or there isn’t enough room on the Town Common for everyone who wants to be there at one time, the group issued a permit would have priority, but it is no longer necessary.

Until now, everyone has had to apply for a permit to protest, picket or assemble in Greenfield for any reason.

There are limitations built into the revised ordinance, according to its authors. People are prohibited from protesting at someone’s home and from assembling a half-hour prior to, during, and a half-hour after a funeral.

The Town Council Appointments and Ordinances Committee sent a positive recommendation to the full council.

“We’re trying to manage limited space, while protecting people’s First Amendment rights,” said Mass.

Singer said the revised ordinance is a “good compromise.”


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