UPDATE: The Radio Television Digital News Association has called on the Lafayette City and Parish councils to reject an attempt by the Guillory administration to pass an ordinance that forbids citizens from standing on the side of the road.
RTDNA is a United States-based membership organization of radio, television, and online news directors, producers, executives, reporters, students and educators. It is the group that issues the Edward R. Murrow Awards and is the world’s largest professional association devoted exclusively to advocating on behalf of broadcast and digital journalists.
“RTDNA is, at its core, an advocate for the First Amendment and, specifically, for its guarantee that journalists are able to fulfill their obligation to serve the public by seeking and reporting the truth. This ordinance, as currently written, provides no exemption for journalists and, therefore, would impede their ability to report on issues of vital concern to the people of Lafayette Parish. Therefore, we call on the Lafayette City Council and the Lafayette Parish Council not to pass the ordinance in its current form," said Dan Shelley, Executive Director.
The ACLU also weighed in:
"To call this ordinance illegal would be an understatement. Under the Constitution, people have the right to express themselves and travel through public spaces without fear of harassment or arrest. Banning people from standing on public sidewalks is an extreme measure, and this ordinance is a brazen attempt to infringe on people's First Amendment right to protest. We will be closely monitoring the enforcement of this measure and be ready to take legal action if necessary to defend people's constitutional rights," said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director.
The ordinance, which would make it illegal for citizens to stand on medians, sidewalks or rights of way, is up for final adoption Tuesday.
We've also reached out to both of Lousiana's U.S. Senators and the congressmen who represent our area. So far, only U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy's office has responded, to say they "don’t have a comment on that issue." We will update this story as we receive more reactions.
The ordinance, proposed by the Josh Guillory Administration, outlaws people standing or sitting anywhere in rights-of-way or medians - unless they are waiting at a bus stop. Some have alleged it seeks to ban protesting by citizens.
The ordinance says it is illegal for anyone to sit and stand "for any period of time in or within 36 inches of a roadway; in or on any unpaved median; or in or on any median of less than 36 inches."
A letter from City Attorney Greg Logan accompanying the ordinance says it addresses "obstructions to the areas adjacent to the public streets and roadways."
A violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor.
We've reached out to the administration for details on the specific intent of the ordinance, and also for a response to the allegation that it seeks to ban protesting.
You can read the entire ordinance for yourself below, or by clicking here.
Guillory already is under fire for an order that the ACLU calls a ban on protesting downtown.
The order, which was extended on August 28, bans “congregating or loitering” in the downtown area, threatening penalties of up to $500 or six months in jail.
"In a television interview, Mayor Guillory recently referred to protest leaders as “terrorists” and the extension of the order appears aimed at quelling protests over the killing of Trayford Pellerin by police," the release states.
“We all recognize the importance of social distancing during the pandemic, but the First Amendment still applies,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “The Mayor’s order is a clear violation of the right to protest guaranteed to every American under the Constitution and must be revoked immediately. The Mayor’s inflammatory comments about protest leaders are a clear indication of the true motive behind this policy: to criminalize peaceful demonstrators and suppress their right to demand justice for the killing of Trayford Pellerin. Criminalizing peaceful protest and attacking his own constituents will not help this community heal, nor will it bring about the urgent change that’s needed to stop the scourge of police violence against Black communities. The ACLU of Louisiana will be closely monitoring the enforcement of this order and stands ready to take legal action if necessary to protect the right to protest in Lafayette.”