City of Birmingham

Woodfin Adds Exception to Demonstration Ban

A confederate monument in Linn Park is the target of protestors on May 31, 2020. (Source: Tom Gordon)

Mayor Randall Woodfin has walked back his total ban on public gatherings and demonstrations in Birmingham, allowing permitted demonstrations in one park in the North Avondale neighborhood.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Woodfin said his office would allow permitted demonstrations to take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in W.C. Patton Park, at 1200 Sipsey Street.

“We want to balance the right to assembly with the absolute need for public safety,” Woodfin said in the statement. Allowing demonstrations in W.C. Patton Park “is our creative solution to ensure freedom of speech while reducing public safety risks.”

In the wake of violent protests Sunday night, Woodfin instituted a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew; during that time, public property and streets will be closed to everyone but essential workers with documentation from their employers. On Tuesday afternoon, Woodfin amended that curfew order to block all public protests and demonstrations.

Birmingham city law allows the mayor to “prohibit or regulate any demonstration, parade, march, vigil or participation therein from taking place on any of the public ways or upon any public property” during a state of emergency.

In his statement Wednesday, Woodfin said that he “understand(s) the community’s concerns regarding the temporary restrictions placed on public protests.”

“Trust me, I hear you,” he said. “Unfortunately, the tragic consequences of this week’s protests, occurring both on our streets and around the country, demonstrate a clear and present danger to the safety of our residents, including peaceful protestors. We want to balance the right to assembly with the absolute need for public safety.”

Threats Against Birmingham People and Institutions

Woodfin also said his office is “aware of credible threats against the city, certain locations, individuals and protestors” and had been in contact with both state law enforcement and the FBI.

“We won’t provide too many specifics on locations,” Rick Journey, Woodfin’s communications director, said in a statement. “I can say: The mayor has received threats. There have been threats directed toward first responders. There have been threats directed toward protestors. Due to these threats, there will be enhanced security procedures at City Hall and other locations.”

Woodfin previously told reporters that the Confederate monument in Linn Park had received bomb threats before its removal Monday night. In a Wednesday morning appearance on “The Today Show,” he told Al Roker that he had personally received death threats over his decision to remove the monument.

Demonstrators need to apply for a city permit to hold a protest or vigil at W.C. Patton Park; those seeking a permit can call (205) 254-2556.

Woodfin also suggested that the 7 p.m. curfew put in place for an indefinite period could be ended next week. “The intent is to end the current curfew Monday, June 8, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., but (it) may be extended due to circumstances,” he said.