Glens Falls sued by pro-Trump group over public gathering law

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GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Protesters gathering at Centennial Circle and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s office have become a part of life in the city of Glens Falls. Last week, one political group sued the city over their response to those rallies.

American Patriots Express (APEX), one of three groups which has rallied and protested in the city in support of Stefanik and President Donald Trump, filed a federal lawsuit on June 16 over a city ordinance on political gatherings.

The ordinance is Glens Falls City Code 87, which requires a permit be approved for “any public assembly, parade or other event involving more than 25 individuals.” APEX says in the lawsuit that the requirements qualify as a violation of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

APEX organizers Dave Vanscoy and Florence Sherman are named as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges that the ordinance was put into place following encounters between different political groups, where “this turn of events where other people expressed a different viewpoint from the leftist orthodoxy at leftist demonstrations was intolerable to the leftist.”

The city has maintained that the purpose of the law public safety, as well as the management of police presence and overtime.

The lawsuit cites multiple cases since the code’s introduction in February during which members of the APEX group wanted to hold a protest or rally, but did not file a request with the city out of fears that their request would be either delayed or outright denied.

On June 5, Glens Falls saw an influx of over 2,000 people marching down Glen Street in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The lawsuit says that Sherman, a demonstrator in the APEX group, had planned a counterprotest to take place that same day, but did not pursue a permit.

The law allows for 14 days for a permit to be approved, plus an additional 14 days if deemed necessary.

The lawsuit does not describe any incidents where the city has discriminated against any permit requests by the group.

The lawsuit further alleges that Trump supporters in the greater Glens Falls community have felt the need to self-censor since the passing of the ordinance, and references testimony by unnamed parties voicing concern that their jobs might be lost is they attend an event.

The lawsuit calls for City Code 87 to be declared unconstitutional and enforcement to be ceased; $1.00 in nominal damages be awarded to each plaintiff; damages be awarded Florence Sherman; and any further relief deemed proper by the court.

The lawsuit is now in the hands of U.S. District Court, which directed Glens Falls to submit a response due June 19, to be followed by a reply from the plaintiff group due Monday, June 22. Thomas Marcelle, lawyer for APEX in the case, confirmed that his office was at work meeting the deadline on the reply, but did not speak on its contents.

Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall and Common Council Councilwoman-At-Large Jane Reid did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday.

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