GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – More than five months after being sued over the details and mechanics of a city protest law, Glens Falls is set to pay out their share of legal fees to set a lawsuit to rest with American Patriots Express, or APEX.
In a meeting of the Glens Falls Common Council last week, the city approved the transfer of $31,500 as the payout of their share of legal fees to lay the case to rest. That’s the city’s share of a $50,000 legal bill. The rest will be covered by the city’s insurer, New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal.
In the lawsuit, APEX, a group that holds events in support of President Donald Trump and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, alleged that Glens Falls City Code 87 was unconstitutional. The code requires political gatherings including protests and rallies to get a permit if 25 or more people will be participating.
In a phone call on Monday, Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall did not wish to expand too much on the state of the case, other than to celebrate its end.
“I believe that it’s been settled,” Hall said. “Our insurance company represented us, and so we’ve got a law in place and we can put it behind us.”
Exact details of the settlement had not been released as of Monday. According to court documentation from the case, the plaintiffs were seeking compensation “in an amount to be determined at trial.”
The law has already undergone some changes since the lawsuit was filed. Last month, the city changed its turnaround time on approving permits. Originally, that timeframe allowed two weeks from the application date, as well as an additional two weeks if deemed necessary. APEX members voiced concerns that these rules could be abused to withhold permits from groups trying to hold events. Now, all permits must be approved or denied within 7 days.
Along with that, the city added a definition to “spontaneous gathering,” a term used to refer to gatherings that would violate city code if not accompanied by the proper permits. A spontaneous gathering was clarified as any gathering not planned a week in advance, so as to synchronize with the permit process.
APEX alleged in their June lawsuit that, in addition to the permit process, they and other Trump supporters in the region felt the need to self-censor opinions due to the atmosphere surrounding political rallies and protests. No specific parties were identified in the lawsuit, but APEX did reference a Black Lives Matter protest held in the city over the summer, saying that they wanted to counter-protest but felt there would be a chance they would not be allowed to.
The plaintiffs in the case are APEX members Florence Sherman and Dave Vanscoy, as well as an unnamed 17-year-old. APEX says that the permit requirements as they stood in June were a violation of the First Amendment. The group has been represented by lawyer Thomas Marcelle in the case.
Glens Falls first put City Code 87 into action in February, after a series of protests and rallies in the city over the previous two years. Some of those involved verbal altercations and other unsafe behavior, and the city has stood firm in its stance that the code was put into place in order to preserve safety.
In July, the city tried and failed to have the lawsuit dismissed, on the grounds that APEX had never actually been denied a permit.
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