FAQ: Public Demonstrations
A demonstration by a hate group in 2019 led the community and media to seek answers from the town regarding demonstrations, the town’s response, and how the community should proceed. Below are answers to some of the common questions that town officials have received. Click on a question to view the answer.
Yes. See the document Hillsborough Condemns Racism and White Supremacy for statements from the mayor and police chief as well as a statement about the town’s values. The town’s strategy map also includes the town’s values, vision, mission and strategic priorities.
One, we fully support people’s rights to stand up for their beliefs and values. Free speech is protected for everyone under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and is critical to our democracy. We expect people demonstrating their First Amendment rights to conduct themselves in a civil manner and to avoid escalating confrontation by actions such as using profanity, threatening violence, and approaching any opposing groups. We further expect demonstrators to follow the instructions of law enforcement and to keep access open to sidewalks and businesses.
Two, we want the community to continue to enjoy all that Hillsborough has to offer, including our local businesses, our neighborhoods and our amenities, like our parks and the Riverwalk greenway. The ability to enjoy each other’s company and to interact in a safe and welcoming environment are values worth standing up for.
Three, we want to encourage our community members to stay informed about what is occurring in town. The town regularly issues news releases to provide critical and accurate information. These releases are sent by email to subscribers and are posted on the town’s website and social media. You can subscribe to news releases and follow us on social media: @HillsboroughGov on Facebook and Twitter. You also can visit our website, www.hillsboroughnc.gov, to view our news or to contact officials through the Contact Us page. We make every effort to distribute information in a timely manner, and we appreciate your patience as we also want to provide you with correct information.
Technically, a permit is required for all events in which the public is invited. However, this has been loosely enforced to accommodate free speech rights for a wide variety of groups. The intent of the permit is to ensure public safety, since attendance cannot be reasonably anticipated at such events. Town officials are examining permit requirements and procedures as well as the level of enforcement that will be expected going forward. Currently, anyone inviting the public to participate in an event or to gather in public spaces should apply for a special event permit.
No. The right to assemble and to speak freely is important to our democracy and is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The town firmly upholds the right of free speech, including speech that we find distasteful, hateful and contrary to generally held community values. Upholding people’s right to free speech and ensuring equal protection in the law for groups that espouse hateful views should not be construed as condoning or being complicit in those views. We are obligated to ensure that any restrictions placed on the right of free speech are in the interest of public safety and are applied fairly and equally.
The Hillsborough Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office are partnering with other agencies to prepare for various conditions. Hillsborough police will be strictly enforcing a state law that prohibits weapons at demonstrations. North Carolina General Statute 14-277.2 prohibits weapons at parades, funeral processions, picket lines and demonstrations that take place on public property. Violation of the statute is a Class 1 misdemeanor.