DeWitt Town Board restricts public protest at funerals

The DeWitt Town Board last month updated a local law to ban residents from protesting within 1,000 feet of a funeral. The amendment is meant to protect residents when paying tribute to deceased loved ones.

DeWitt Town Supervisor Ed Michalenko said the move is preventative, and was not done in response to any particular public disturbance locally.

“This, in general, has been a concern, and so the law was something that we felt was protective of families in times of personal needs and in times of crisis,” Michalenko said.

Residents wishing to assemble, congregate parade or march in or through any DeWitt location were already required to obtain a permit from the town. The law now restricts residents from protesting within 1,000 feet of funeral services or related functions in the town of DeWitt.

The idea for the law was brought to the board by Councilor Ken Andrews after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that authorizes municipalities to establish 1,000-foot zones around military funerals on public land, require permits for related demonstrations and impose fines for failure to comply. The state law takes effect in November.

“Instead of passing a law that was strictly for military funerals, we kind of opened it up so it wasn't so limited in scope,” Andrews said.

Andrews said the change to the law does not take away residents’ rights to public protest outside the 1,000-foot zone.

“It just makes them go through a permitting process in order to do it,” he said. “We can't deny them a permit if they apply for one.”

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