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Nevada County officials push permits for future protests

After seeing weeks of sporadic protests pop up without a hitch, violence at political events this week has some officials asking the public to show caution and to prepare before their next organizing action.

Officials across Nevada County are now encouraging any potential protesters to work with law enforcement agencies prior to demonstrations to help ensure the event and the community’s safety.

While demonstrations over the past few weeks featuring people holding signs on the sidewalk for passersby to read do not typically require permits or prior notification due to First Amendment protections, according to Nevada City Mayor Erin Minett, seeking out a permit could help both activists and law enforcement.

“It would be really helpful if people are going to do a protest downtown that they do let City Hall know. That way we are prepared to have backup in the police department, if needed,” she said.

According to Minett, at the time of Sunday’s violent counter-protest the city had just three officers on duty.

During that event counter-protesters can be seen on video confronting Black Lives Matter supporters. Some of them are seen grabbing signs and striking protesters.

In Grass Valley, organizers can apply for an encroachment permit, which allows street demonstrations and regulates the use of property, or a special event permit, which is usually used for very large events. Special event permits are handled by the police department while encroachment permits are taken care of by the Public Works Department.

The county also has encroachment permits available for large events and street closures outside of city limits, which can be obtained through the Community Development Agency.

While the permits are not specifically for protesting, County Office Emergency Services Administrative Capt. Jeff Pettitt said applying for one could benefit organizers by providing barricades, directing traffic, and they could also request an additional police presence.

“The best thing they can do is contact the local law enforcement agency,” Pettitt said. “They’ll sit down and meet with the demonstrators and just kind of ask, ‘What do you guys envision? What are you guys seeing?’ And we can work together to have a peaceful demonstration, which is really what we want out of all of these.”

Although officials say notifying law enforcement before a protest could help protect protesters, organizations have been criticized in the past for including police agencies in demonstrations, particularly during events highlighting police brutality and inequities.

In June, Los Angeles Pride festival organizers had to apologize and withdraw from an event supporting Black Lives Matter after their collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Department to hold the event came under heavy criticism.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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