Council grants permit to activists

Peace group is planning four demonstrations at city library branch

March 25, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Peace activists secured a permit last night from the Westminster Common Council that will allow them to continue their demonstrations in the city - with the next one planned Saturday at the city branch of the county library on Main Street.

The local chapter of Women in Black, a national peace movement, also will be able to demonstrate April 26, June 28 and July 26 at the library, according to the permit that won the council's unanimous approval.

The city requires permits for any demonstration, vigil or march on public property. Without a permit, such activities would be relegated to private property. Violators face fines of $25 initially and $50 for each additional offense.

The peace group had held four demonstrations on the last Saturday of the month since November. But at the event last month, police informed participants of the need for a permit. Permits are free, but the application process takes about 10 days, pending a review by city police and the zoning administrator.

Richard Serrao, a member of the group, submitted an application for the permit March 14.

Serrao did not address the council last night, but said in an interview last week that demonstrators will stand silently with peace signs, and will not hand out literature or interfere with library patrons.

"We are not being unpatriotic," he said. "We just don't know what else to do."

After the council vote to grant the permit, Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff issued a proclamation of support for U.S. military forces.

"The men and women in uniform deserve our support," Dayhoff said. "I hope they get the job done as quickly as possible and come home safely."

In other business, the city public works director told council members that the city will forward information on snow removal costs from last month's storm to Carroll County Emergency Services as a step toward reimbursement from the federal government.

The county agency will act as a liaison between Carroll, its eight municipalities and the federal government. Since President Bush has granted an emergency declaration to the state, the city will be eligible for reimbursement of as much as 75 percent of its costs, including those for personnel, overtime and equipment, city officials said.

"All we have to do is get our costs accumulated and we should be reimbursed," said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster director of planning and public works.

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