UPDATE: Protest request raises safety concern

Published 11:00 pm Friday, August 23, 2013

***** UPDATE 8/25: Per Henderson, the protest has been postponed until sometime in September.

*** UPDATE: 8/23 The protest will go on at noon on Monday across from TES, according to Henderson.

A city councilwoman’s planned protest across the street from Troy Elementary School may be cancelled after the City of Troy denied a permit request.

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Dejerilyn King Henderson had announced the protest to be held at 7 a.m. Monday as a way to “keep the issue at hand in the limelight.” Henderson helped facilitate a federal lawsuit by three parents claiming a Troy City Schools practice that allows parents to request children be placed in certain classrooms is racist.

A letter denying the permit, signed by Troy Mayor Jason A. Reeves, notes that recommendations from relevant department heads – including Police Chief Jimmy Ennis – raised various concerns about her request.

“The primary concern is the safety of the school children who attend the school and who are being dropped off and picked up at the school,” Reeves wrote.

Reeves wrote that he was willing to grant permission to conduct a peaceful demonstration between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. “Your request for the demonstration to occur at 7 a.m. is not workable and will put children in danger,” Reeves said.

He added, “To protect the safety and well-being of the children, it would be preferable for you to reconsider your request and choose a different site.”

In his recommendation to the mayor, the police chief Ennis wrote, “It would never be my decision to deny anyone or any group their right to assemble peaceably. Due to the many safety issues at this time of the morning I have a responsibility as the Chief of Police to consider everyone’s safety. I believe a more appropriate time could be arranged for this event.”

Henderson doesn’t believe it is a concern for safety that is blocking her application for a 7 a.m. protest.

“I believe they are just angry at me,” Henderson said. “This is not about the location. This is strictly about the fact that they don’t want publicity.”

Henderson said the time of the event was chosen not only so parents would see protest signs as they dropped children off in the morning, but also so interested college students and parents and community members who work could participate.

Reeves said late Friday his concern was driven by the safety issues. “I believe very strongly in the right to peaceably assemble, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the cause,” Reeves said. “I just can’t allow a dangerous situation for the children, parents or officers … The point of a protest is to garner attention. And if a walker (student), driver or crossing guard was distracted at that time of day with all the traffic it would be very dangerous to all concerned.”

As of Friday evening, Henderson said she wasn’t sure if the protest would go on between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., or if the event would be cancelled.