RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A federal judge is asking the ACLU of Virginia to settle a dispute with Richmond police. A group of demonstrators wants to hold a May Day parade and is asking the courts to stop the department from charging a fee for police presence.
Police were at the May Day parade last year and did not charge a fee. This year, the group wants to bring its signs, banners,even giant puppets down Main and Broad Streets to Monroe Park.
Richmond police say because the parade is on the street and involves possibly 200 people...lanes of traffic will need to be closed and at least two officers will have to be there.
They charged the group a fee of $296 for the officers' time and vehicles.
"The police are not authorized under the ordinance to charge our clients for the police," said Rebecca Glenberg, with the ACLU. She represents the parade organizers. She says the fee violates the group's first amendment rights. "All we're saying is that the city ordinance and the constitution don't allow police to require our clients to pay for those police."
In federal court, Assistant City Attorney Brian Telfair argued the issue is public safety, not free speech. He wouldn't comment on the case, but said of working out a compromise..."We've always communicated to them that we're more than willing to provide them with an alternative means to provide their protest."
Judge Henry Hudson told both sides, before they left, "The group has an over arching right to express its opinion, but the police also have a duty to public safety." He went on to say, "I'm going to leave the door ajar for you to solve the problem."
Again, Judge Henry Hudson strongly urged the ACLU to settle the dispute. If the two sides can't resolve the issue in the next day, Hudson will issue his findings by noon on Thursday.
If it is allowed to happen, the May Day event will begin at 3:00 in Monroe Park on Sunday May first. The march is supposed to start at 5:00.