Westminster stays with mandatory picketing permits

October 19, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

It may soon be all right to carry any foreign flag you please down Main Street in Westminster, but don't try to picket without a permit.

The City Council has no plans to change a section of its picketing, parades and demonstrations ordinance that requires permits, despite an American Civil Liberties Union spokesman's view that the way the law has been enforced may infringe on free speech.

The council is tentatively scheduled to vote Oct. 26 on a recommendation to repeal two sections of the ordinance that may be unconstitutional: a ban on displaying the flag of any nation at war with or lacking diplomatic relations with the United States; and a provision that the city government can opt to require parade sponsors to post a bond.

Stuart Comstock-Gay, director of the ACLU of Maryland, said the permit requirement probably doesn't pose a constitutional issue, but the process may.

"If the restrictions make it unreasonable, they [city officials] may be blocking free speech," he said.

Members of local peace groups say they have had difficulties with the permit process.

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