LMPD gives Occupy ICE activists 4 hours to move camps off sidewalk
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A group of Occupy ICE demonstrators have until 9 p.m. Sunday to move their camps and create a four-foot sidewalk passageway in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The four-hour notice given by LMPD comes days after the group set up a "peaceful occupation" camp outside Louisville's ICE office, and one day after hundreds of protesters from groups on both sides of the immigration debate gathered in downtown Louisville in protest.
Officials with the Occupy ICE group tweeted Sunday after receiving the notice that they needed help arranging the camps. The group said they would not be moved from the area, stating the notice they were given was not signed, and not on official letterhead.
Saturday evening, LMPD and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's Office announced a "series of steps" they designed to help the city continue to have a safe place for residents to maintain their right to free speech.
In a news release, officials said LMPD's legal counsel and the County Attorney's office agreed the protesters camped on a sidewalk outside the Louisville ICE office must be in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Kentucky state law KRS 525.140 that "prohibits obstructing a highway or other public passage, such as a sidewalk."
In order for the group to remain in place, a four-foot sidewalk passage in front of their camp must be created, officials say.
"We will continue to balance public safety with free speech, including what constitutes free speech. We have been accommodating to people’s right to free speech, but those protesting must also be in compliance with state and local laws," Police Chief Steve Conrad said.
Police have reportedly made several attempts to communicate with the group since the camp went up on Monday, July 2.
"LMPD contacted members of the group multiple times each day to provide safety information and attempt to begin a dialogue about concerns for their safety and that of the public. Those attempts at two-way communication were unsuccessful," officials said.
After the camp set up on Monday, federal agents removed a number protesters who were blocking an entrance to the office on South Seventh Street at Broadway.
Since then, the group has been kept at a further distance. Now police say the demonstrators must create the four-foot pathway.
The release went on to say police told the group on Tuesday to apply for a permit, which would have "allowed for legal protest during daytime hours, helped ensure public safety and allowed a process to be put in place for public hygiene facilities."
Officials say the group "would not apply for a permit," and if the pathway is not created, a written notice will be given and legal relief will be sought if the group continues to not comply with the order.
"Given the presence of weapons on both sides today, there was a very real potential for violence. There remain public safety concerns, and we will continue to monitor the situation," Conrad said in the release, adding that police will continue to monitor the situation.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the purpose of the steps being taken by police are to protect public safety and free speech amid the ongoing demonstration.
Fischer also released a statement on his Twitter page Saturday, applauding the peacefulness of the protest and thanking all officers involved for taking precautions ahead of the protest.
Officials say the guidelines laid out would apply to any groups of protesters in the future.
Fischer noted in the release the city of Louisville remains openly welcome to immigrants, and in support of the right to peacefully protest.
Organizers of the demonstration say they will camp outside the Louisville office until the Trump administration abolishes ICE.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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