Lawsuit filed against Richmond Police over parade fees

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The Richmond Police Department is being sued. An organization that wants to hold a parade next month is suing because the city is requiring them to pay for a police presence.

The May Day parade has a political message and without police presence the city won't allow it to go on. The catch is, organizers feel, having to pay for off-duty officers is unjust and a violation of their first amendment rights.

The lawsuit shows Richmond May Day Coalition versus Richmond Police Chief Bryan Norwood and other top cops in the department.

Legal director for the ACLU, Rebecca Glenberg drew up the paperwork.

"When people want to exercise their free speech right, the government should not impose restrictions on them unless there are very clear guidelines," said Glenberg.

But according to the city codes, no where does it include guidelines for the city to charge a fee - they didn't last year - but in doing so this year, it imposes a restriction now because this grass roots coalition says they just can't afford the $296 required for 2 officers and two squad cars that day.

"I feel like this is what the police department wants, for us to get tired," said Organizer, Kenneth Yates.

Get tired and perhaps just go away. But Yates says there's a message to be heard on May first - "International Workers' Day".

"Immigration issues, legalization for all, is one of our cause of action," said Yates.

About 200 people gathered at Monroe Park for the May Day parade last year and this year they're expecting just as many to participate.

"We'd like to see more emphasis on jobs, public transportation, public housing issues and affordable housing in general," said Yates.

Bringing a lawsuit into the mix was the last thing Yates wanted to do.

"Frustrated mostly, I'm confident that it'll work out and that the city will do the right thing," said Yates.

We tried talking to police several times today, they did release this statement:

"We're aware of [the lawsuit]. We haven't had a chance to review it, so we cannot react to it at this time," said Richmond Police.

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