No. No. No. Activist Tami Sawyer speaks against the proposed ordinance and its danger. (Photo: Montee Lopez)

A proposed ordinance before the Memphis City Council would change the way parades and public demonstrations are governed.

The proposed ordinance, brought forth by Councilman Reid Hedgepeth, seeks to amend city law dealing with parades and public assemblies – making a clear distinction between them. The ordinance would also serve to increase notice time and adjust fees as the city sees fit.

Activists and concerned citizens met at First Congregational Baptist Church in Cooper-Young Saturday afternoon to voice their frustrations.

“We continue to criminalize poverty, we continue to criminalize people who speak up against oppression,” Tami Sawyer said.

The proposal affects anyone who’s looking to gather in public spaces with any advance planning, with or without a permit. This includes any rallies of any kind – peaceful or disruptive.

“It criminalizes anyone who decides to exercise their first amendment right to free speech,” George Boyington with the Tennessee Young Democrats Grassroots Caucus said.

Boyington said during the meeting that the ordinance also bolsters Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings’ power to deny any permit.

Members of the Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens told The New Tri State Defender that they have reached out to Councilman Hedgepeth for discussion, but he has not returned their messages.

The proposal must go through two more readings before the City Council and gain approval to go into effect. The next reading is December 5.