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Chambersburg considers requiring parade permits

July 28, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Several parades and events through the end of 2007 already are approved, but the Chambersburg Borough Council is set to consider an ordinance requiring permits for future parades and public gatherings.

The reason for permits, according to the ordinance, "is not to exclude communication of a particular content," but to coordinate events, preserve streets and parks, prevent dangerous or unlawful uses, and assure financial accountability for any damages."

"We're not cutting people off at the pass," borough solicitor Thomas Finucane told the council this week. "We're going to provide people with a way to get their message across."

Content was the subject of discussion at Monday's meeting, with Finucane telling the council that a permit to a group such as the Ku Klux Klan cannot be denied purely because the message is deemed objectionable.

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The message of such groups can be "designed to inspire hatred" and possibly provoke a disturbance, Councilwoman Elaine Swartz said.

The ordinance does allow permits to be denied or revoked for several technical and safety reasons, one of which is the likelihood that an activity could pose a danger to health and safety, "provoke disorderly conduct or ... create a disturbance."

That relates to an activity posing a physical danger to participants and spectators, and is not meant to infringe on speech, Finucane said.

"They can carry crosses, but they can't burn them," Council President William McLaughlin said.

The current practice is for a sponsor to submit a written request to be reviewed by the borough secretary and police chief before being voted on by the council, borough secretary Tanya Mickey said.

The ordinance would require filing an application at least 28 days before an event. The permit is free, although sponsors would have to show proof of insurance for personal injury or death and property damage.

The borough will continue to pay the first $300 in police services for traffic control, with sponsors paying the balance plus 20 percent, Mickey said. The ordinance states, however, that the borough is not required to close streets or provide security for parade members based on an applicant's "actual or proposed message."

Mickey said her office would issue the permits. Exceptions would include funeral and wedding processions and borough-sponsored parades, although Chambersburg does not sponsor any, she said.

The council will vote on the ordinance on Aug. 13.

Already approved for this year are the Chambersburg Roadrunners Club 5-mile Tom Ausherman Run on Aug. 11; AppleFest on Oct. 20; the Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 12; and the Christmas Parade on Nov. 17, Mickey said.

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