Public Safety

Fencing Erected Around Downtown Parks to Discourage Gatherings

Birmingham placed a fence around Linn Park June 4, 2020, to discourage protests and because of concerns about public safety. (Source: Sam Prickett)

Fencing has been placed around Birmingham’s Linn Park “to ensure unregistered gatherings do not occur,” Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office announced Thursday, and fencing is going up around Kelly Ingram Park.

Linn Park, which lies between City Hall and the Jefferson County Courthouse, was the location of violent protests Sunday night over the police killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd, which led to the city taking down a Confederal monument there.

Meanwhile, rumors have been rampant that violence is expected in downtown today, but whether that is based in fact is unclear.

Woodfin’s office earlier today denied that there were plans to “shut down” the city Thursday afternoon “due to potential unrest.”

“This is not true,” the statement read. “To be clear, the city has not announced a shut down nor does it plan to announce a shutdown today.”

This afternoon Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson took to Facebook to debunk reports that the Ku Klux Klan would be holding a rally downtown. Woodfin’s office, she said, is “barricading off the park for other reasons or measures. But this has nothing to do with the KKK coming to downtown. The KKK coming is false. Be safe.”

Black Lives Matter had planned a protest downtown for 3 p.m. today but has rescheduled it for Saturday because of safety concerns, WBHM has reported.

Others also are heeding the rumors. The University of Alabama at Birmingham  has notified workers and students that the campus would close at 2 p.m. “out of an abundance of caution … due to possible protests downtown.”

Several businesses, including the Pizitz Food Hall and Urban Standard, have closed early and boarded up their windows out of fear of protest violence.

Damage From Earlier Protest

Some protestors attempted to topple the Confederate monument that had been in Linn Park during a protest Sunday night. They did topple one other statue and cover two others with graffiti before leaving the park under Woodfin’s assurance that the city would remove the Confederate monument, which it did Monday and Tuesday.

Some protestors smashed windows and set fires downtown after leaving that demonstration.

­Demonstrations have been quieter since then, but demonstrations and threats have continued to happen in Linn Park, the mayor’s office said.

“Yesterday evening, City Hall was placed on a brief lockdown after officials learned that individuals in Linn Park had been in cities where there had been peaceful protests that were followed by civil unrest,” Woodfin’s office said in a Thursday afternoon statement. “There was no civil unrest near City Hall yesterday. However, a group gathered in Linn Park refused to leave after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew. Following their failure to disperse, they were arrested.”

The citywide 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew is expected to extend through at least Monday. Woodfin announced Tuesday that the curfew would include a 24-hour ban on all public gatherings, protests, parades, demonstrations and vigils; he amended that decision Wednesday to allow for permitted protestors to gather between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. in North Avondale’s W.C. Patton Park.