Council to look at how to handle protesters at servicemen funera - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Council to look at how to handle protesters at servicemen funerals, memorials

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As she stood before Chattanooga’s City Council, Mary Staggs spoke softly. 

“We should remember the discipline and dignity that our soldiers exude,” she said to council members. 

But the message behind her statements left an impact on the entire room, as the community prepares to lay two of the five servicemen killed in Thursday’s rampage to rest. 

“We would like to ask the City of Chattanooga for an extra blanket of protection for these families,” she continued. 

Staggs is part of an online group that formed after rumors spread that protesters were coming to picket the memorials and funerals of Chattanooga’s fallen servicemen. 

Deputy City Attorney Phil Noblett told Staggs and council members federal laws passed in 2006 require demonstrations at federal cemeteries to be approved by the cemetery superintendent and could only happen an hour before or after a funeral. 

Tennessee laws also ban protest from happening within 500 feet and prohibit sound equipment or signs. 

“Those distance restrictions are attempts by the state of Tennessee and the federal government to develop time, manner and place restrictions which would be upheld in the event that that there was a Constitutional question from someone saying they are inserting their First Amendment rights,” Noblett added. 

But Staggs wants the city to look into other events the laws don’t cover, like memorials. She’s asking the city to pass a 60 day ordinance similar to one in Charleston. 

“Whenever you look at the laws, they’re not very clear on what the state branch can do under the Fallen Heroes Act so that led us to more looking online and making calls,” she said. 

Council members agreed, voting unanimously to hold a special session and look at how the city will offer the protection state and federal laws don’t cover. 

Stay will Channel 3 for updates on this story. 

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