Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks suspends permits for gatherings

Editor’s Note: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.The right of a citizen to peacefully 1) parade and gather or 2) demonstrate support or opposition of public policy or 3) express one’s views, is guaranteed by the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble.

Originally, the right to assemble was considered less important than the right to petition. Yet, over the years, the courts have interpreted the First Amendment and the right to peaceful assembly as significant in its importance to society today. The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the First Amendment protects the right to conduct a peaceful public assembly.  The right to assemble is not, however, absolute.  Government officials cannot simply prohibit a public assembly, but the government can impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of peaceful assembly, provided that constitutional safeguards are met.  Time, place, and manner restrictions are permissible so long as they are “justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, . . . are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and . . . leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information” (United States Library of Congress, 2017).

Overall, the Right to Assemble is of significant importance to U.S. society as it gives all citizens the freedom to have a voice and freely associate with one another in public under a common cause or shared value.

Kevin BrooksCleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks issued a statement Friday announcing the city will immediately suspend the granting of permits for public gatherings until March 30.

While no COVID-19 cases have developed in Cleveland or Bradley County as of Sunday, the Tennessee Department of Health on Friday announced one case in Hamilton County.

The infection rate in Tennessee has increased from nine cases on Wednesday to 26 cases on Friday.

Brooks said the purpose of city government “always has been and always will be to serve the citizens of Cleveland.”

“As the effects of coronavirus continue to affect our nation, it is up to us here in the City with Spirit to exercise the proper amount of caution and reasonable action,” Brooks said. “We do not allow unreasonable fear to dictate our actions, but we do not deny that there are very significant public health risks in our county at the moment.”

Brooks said the city will immediately suspend granting permits for public gatherings on city property, including festivals, concerts and greenway events.

“In addition to this, the mayor’s office encourages citizens to contact your physician immediately if you experience any signs of illness and to stay away from groups of people or areas where groups congregate,” Brooks said.

He said the city will begin re-examining applications for gatherings on March 30, and will make decisions at that time based on information available to the city.

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