Advocates protest their right to free speech after City Council proposes change to ordinance

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Protesters are outraged after the Memphis City Council proposed changes that they say threatens their right to free speech and their right to gather.

The City Council says its all a misunderstanding.

The ordinance that was passed involves public events. The council said it's designed to protect residents who've been inconvenienced from things like marathons or parades that can tie up the streets for hours on end.

Some believe there is an ulterior motive.

"I'm indignant. I'm enraged. I'm outraged, and I'm very sad," said Al Lewis, with the Coalition of Concerned Citizens.

Free speech, no police state and First Amendment were all written on signs that were held by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens.

"It's our first amendment right to be able to assemble and protest. There shouldn't even be an ordinance speaking about protest," said Lewis.

Protesters were frustrated as they gathered in front of City Hall Tuesday after City Council passed an ordinance in executive committee, but they believe the council is undermining their right to free speech.

"To try to intact these laws under the cover of a race and then you wait until the longest holiday of the year so far to announce it so it goes under the radar, and after we dig in it we found out this is murder to the constitution," said Lewis.

City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd said the new requirements do not apply to public assembles, and it's a completely separate issue from races and parades.

"Instead of assuming, I think you have to go back and listen to the discussion of when Councilman Hedgepeth proposed this ordinance change. It was very clear and very concise as to what area he was going after," said Chairman Boyd.