The Charlotte City Council met on Monday, July 17th, 2017 and repealed a controversial crowd-control ordinance, which was passed 5 years ago before the Democratic National Convention in 2012. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney and city staff agreed the ordinance is no longer needed. He told City Council that his officers need to focus on terrorism – not about rioters and thrown bottles, the original fear that prompted the ordinance.
The “Extraordinary Events” ordinance banned a long list of items at events that the city had declared “extraordinary.” These prohibited items included bottles, chains, rocks, spray paint, knives, and other weapons. It also prohibited people from concealing those items in backpacks.
Although the ordinance was rarely enforced by police, the city manager has increased the number of gatherings, parades and uptown games that are considered “Extraordinary Events,” including Carolina Panthers football games, last year’s gay pride parade and the Fourth of July fireworks show. In 2012, it was used six times by 2016 it had increased to 14 events, a 230% increase over 4 years.
“Everything became an extraordinary event,” Putney said. “Therefore, nothing was extraordinary.”
Earlier in July, at a forum discussing the ordinance, Putney said he isn’t concerned today about the type of threat the city prepared for before the DNC in 2012. His main concern now, is the type of terrorist attacks that have recently occurred in Europe, where vehicles have been used as weapons and people have been killed by guns or bombs.
The ordinance has been repealed, but the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD will work with event organizers on a case by case basis to create security plans.
Putney has said that the police may consider changing how people enter or exit large events uptown, so police can scrutinize – and possibly search – people entering an event.
But that could bring a new set of complications.
- When would an event be required to set up fencing and have security checkpoints?
- Would CMPD merely scan people entering or would they search all purses and backpacks?
- Would a long line of people waiting to be screened or searched created a target for terrorists?
Councilwoman Julie Eiselt, who chairs the public safety committee, said council members will review any new requirements for events.
“There has been talk about having more controlled access,” Eiselt said. “We are open to it given the change in terrorist tactics.”
In the short term, Eiselt said, the repeal of the ordinance is “an opportunity to build trust” with the community. Activists have long criticized the city for the ordinance, which they view as excessive and counterproductive.
“We really don’t need to be using it,” she said. “The real focus these days is on finding terrorism. … That’s a challenge, but one that’s not really being addressed by this ordinance.”