The First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceably assemble, and the City of Las Vegas wants to emphasize the part about peace.
A new ordinance bans people from bringing weapons, or items that could be used as weapons, to protests — that doesn’t include guns.
“We’ve seen an uptick in violence at protests across the country and I think it was really the Charlottesville incident that kind of brought it to the forefront,” Chuck Callaway, director of intergovernmental affairs for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told KNPR's State of Nevada.
Of course, the Charlottesville incident he is referring to was the Unite the Right march in 2017 in Virginia that saw clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters. One person was killed when a man police say was with the white supremacists rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Callaway said under the ordinance first passed by Clark County and then by the City of Las Vegas. People cannot bring sticks larger than 2 and a half inches in diameter, baseball bats, knives, chains more than six inches long and empty containers - even balloons - that could be filled up with hazardous substances.
He said the ban does not cover "fixed structures" like floats or banners and the sticks used to hold banners. Callaway said they worked with the Culinary Union on the size of the sticks or poles that would be allowed because the union wanted to be able to bring the signs they bring to rallies and protests.
The police department also talked with the ACLU to make sure the ordinance doesn't step on anyone's First Amendment rights.
Callaway said although there haven't been any violent protests in Southern Nevada so far, they wanted to be pro-active and prevent something in the future.
“I think the whole goal is prevention to give officers a tool where if someone shows up at a protest and they’ve got sticks and bats and shields and they’re wearing body armor and that kind of thing we know they’re not there to peacefully protest. They’re there to cause problems,” he said.
Callaway said there are people that he would categorize as "professional protesters" that travel to protests around the country to cause problems that intimidate people who are peacefully protesting.
As for the gun part of the ordinance, Callaway said the local jurisdictions can't make rules concerning guns because under the state law it is up to the legislature to make gun laws.
Callaway said he would prefer that local jurisdictions have more flexibility when it comes to rules for carrying weapons but that is not the case right now.
Chuck Callaway, director of intergovernmental affairs, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
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