Local gov’ts take 2nd look at rally permit rules

Posted: Updated:
WESTPORT -

Many Connecticut municipalities are taking a second look at how and when they issue permits for rallies after one turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

Organizers of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville had obtained a legal permit to be there, as President Donald Trump said when responding to the violence.

"Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee," Trump said.

Earlier this year, a similar group inquired about holding a rally in Westport after the town held a controversial essay contest on white privilege. The group never followed up, but now local governments are reviewing their policies.

In Stamford, an official says the city currently turns down permits when crowds are expected to be too large -- but not over concerns of violence. Not yet, at least.

"We haven't had a type yet that would make us believe that there could be a security issue," says Ernie Orgera, Stamford's operations director. "I think something like this, the police department would have to make that decision."

Still, the Anti-Defamation League says hate crimes are up sharply across western Connecticut, and that about 500 extremists live in the region. In Charlottesville, the rally drew more people from all over the country.

"Government officials can restrict certain things by time, manner, place," says Steve Ginsberg, a member of the Connecticut ADL.  "And they need to really keep security and safety in mind."

Gov. Dannel Malloy says people have a right to hold rallies -- even hate groups. But he adds, if such a group seeks a permit here, the state police and the governor's office are going to closely scrutinize what the safety risk is before allowing it.

"Any time such a permit is sought, we urge local officials to bring it our attention, particularly to our state police," Malloy says.

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