Proposed changes to York's public assembly ordinance aren't enough to make it constitutional, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Several parts of the city's law were struck down by courts in 2006 and 2007 after a white-supremacist group sued the city.

Changes to be considered Tuesday by the York City Council would remove two parts that were declared unconstitutional: requirements for security deposits and reimbursement for expenses such as police.

An insurance requirement was also struck down. In the proposed ordinance, it would still be required for events with more than 100 people, but a reference to the "nature of the activity" as a consideration would be removed.

In a letter to council President Joe Musso, ACLU staff attorney Valerie Burch said the organization was surprised to see provisions such as the insurance requirement still in the ordinance.

"They were declared unconstitutional before, and we believe they are still unconstitutional," she wrote.

Insurers will charge higher rates for unpopular events or those that might cause a "violent response," making the ordinance unfair to some, she argued.

Don Hoyt, the assistant city solicitor, declined to comment on the ACLU's letter Friday other than to say, "I'm looking at it." He previously told council the ordinance should "pass constitutional muster."

City Councilman Cameron Texter plans to propose removing the insurance provision since it was previously overturned.


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Burch said the ACLU became aware of the proposed changes when a local group, the York International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, sought help getting a permit for an event.

Manuel Gomez said at a recent council meeting that his organization was initially denied a permit and asked to pay for police for its May 3 "I Ain't No Gangsta" rally at Penn Park.

After the council meeting, Hoyt said the group was not denied a permit or asked to pay for police. It just took time for the application to go through a standard review process, he said.

Burch said her organization realized the city had not amended its assembly ordinance since the legal battle with the Nationalist Movement. She reviewed the proposed changes and found several other problems, she said.

The ACLU objects to parts of the ordinance prohibiting loud and indecent language, begging and playing musical instruments. Just because no one has challenged them before doesn't mean they are OK, she said Friday.

"They're definitely a problem," she said.

Texter said it would be a good idea to revisit those provisions because they've been on the books for many years.

Council Vice President Carol Hill-Evans said she wants to be careful with the ordinance.

"We don't need any more legal trouble," she said.

amason@ydr.com; 771-2048

ACLU'S OBJECTION

The American Civil Liberties Union objects to the following parts of York's proposed public assembly ordinance:

--- a ban on loud or indecent language, begging and playing musical instruments

--- permit requirements for every exhibit, music or dramatic performance, concert, play, radio or television broadcast, and all religious or political events

--- the fee waiver process

--- an insurance requirement for events with more than 100 people

--- a requirement that permit applications be submitted 30 days before an event

--- the city's ability to deny a permit to anyone who previously violated a permit

See also: York County 1st Amendment case list grows