Lauderdale County activist group believes protest bill targets them

Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 6:57 PM CDT
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LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - A new law impacting Lauderdale County will soon change the rules for protesting.

Governor Kay Ivey approved Senate Bill 152 this week.

The bill will define the standards by which protesters will have to follow in Florence and Lauderdale County. A local activist group believes these standards are unconstitutional.

“A lot of the people that come out with us have families, they have jobs, they have a lot to lose so I definitely think you will see some changes once the law goes into effect just because we have to stay safe and protect our freedom,” said Camille Bennett.

Project Say Something, a local non-profit group, is against Senate Bill 152.

The legislation, sponsored by state Senator Tim Melson of Florence, was signed into law on the 27th.

Camille Bennett of Project Say Something has organized multiple rallies and protests trying to sway government officials to remove a Confederate statue from outside the county courthouse. She believes her group is being targeted by this bill.

“The bill itself seems to be targeting our movement. To the best of my knowledge, protesting hasn’t been a thing here since last summer, so logic tells you that we were definitely targeted and the bill we’re opposed because it’s unconstitutional,” said Bennett.

Here’s how the law will work: Any municipality in the county will be given the power to limit where a group can protest. City leaders can also charge an application fee to cover the costs of cleanup and the pay for officers who may have been called into work because of the protest. The bill does not outline any limitations to these potential costs.

Bennett said this new law will be a matter of choosing between freedom and conformity.

“So this law criminalizes protests and so we have to choose to decide whether to be martyrs and go out there anyway and risk our safety and our freedom or to just stay at home because it’s just a barrier,” said Bennett.

We did reach out to Senator Tim Melson for his response to the reaction to this bill, you can read his full statement below:

“After the unrest, last summer, constituents from several communities approached me about the need to clarify guidelines on how peaceful protests should be handled. The Constitution clearly protects the right to protest peacefully. Business also have the right to be able to operate and the government has a responsibility to protect public safety.

We talked to several other larger cities, including Huntsville to get their input and ask about best practices. SB152 was the result of those conversations. The bill was not aimed at any group. We had lawyers vet the bill to make sure it was constitutionally sound.”

The bill was signed this week, but it will not become law until June 1st.

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