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Requirements, permits may stymie some protests in Augusta-Richmond County

Like the kit essential for construction, activism requires utensils to build momentum. But...
Like the kit essential for construction, activism requires utensils to build momentum. But there’s a wrench in some plans. (Source: WRDW) (WRDW)
Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 5:47 PM EDT
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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Protest permits in Richmond County are free, but they often come with a cost regardless. Turns out, city codes may lead to challenges.

Like the kit essential for construction, activism requires utensils to build momentum.

“Protest is a tool,” one protester said.

But there’s a wrench in some plans. For example, you have to give Richmond County 30 days notice before a protest.

In cases where the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office sees fit, they can require the organizer hire special duty officers at a rate of $22 an hour at a minimum of 4 hours for crowd and traffic control.

In Columbia County, the ordinance requires 14 day advance notice for a permit. Across the river, North Augusta requires 15 days.

Local NAACP President the Rev. Melvin Ivey says the urgency for social reform should mean waived requirements.

“They need to continue to flood the streets,” Ivey said. “It’s important they continue to keep the conversation going.”

In any event, city codes like Augusta’s allow the sheriff’s office to use their discretion, offering case by case exceptions. But RCSO argues, considering the volume of 911 calls on a regular basis, they rely on these requirements to plan ahead for staffing resources.

It's a point Ivey does not take lightly.

“There are more people in Augusta-Richmond County than there are deputies. Sometimes you have to make a good judgment call.”

But the call for systemic change, Ivey is hoping is loud enough to affect even the very permitting system.

Ivey says for local activists like him, protests often are spur of the moment and critical to the movement.

“The whole idea is not just being in the street, not just out shouting, but it’s about bringing about a systematic change,” Ivey said.

In a Monday meeting, North Augusta announced it’s considering changing the code requirements for peaceful protests.

However, that’s not on the books for Columbia or Richmond Counties.

We also found there are similar standards across the region. Savannah needs a 10-day notice for a protest and off-duty officers in some cases must be hired. Over in Macon, city leaders need a 4-week heads up. But again, laws allow officials to waive requirements.

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