What are the rules of protesting in Milledgeville?
An impromptu protest broke out late last month following the United States Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. On a hot Sunday afternoon, roughly two dozen protestors converged around the intersection of Hancock and Wilkinson streets, with different protestors standing at different corners.
Technically, each of the protestors should've been standing in front of the courthouse's "Peace Monument," which was dedicated by the Rotary Club years ago. This is the designated spot for non-permitted protests in Milledgeville, according to Chief Dray Swicord. The City Council passed the statute several years ago.
"We offer a free speech zone that doesn't require a permit. Any other organized protest requires a permit through City Hall," Swicord added. "I was out of town that day, but if I was in town I would've instructed our officers to limit (the protesting) to the free speech zone in front of the courthouse."
Last month's Roe v. Wade protest perhaps was most memorable for its "colorful" homemade signs, many of which contained the word "fuck," while others read "PUSSY POWER." Some locals had a problem with the vulgarities, hollering at the protestors while driving through downtown that day. Others posted on Facebook later that they were bothered by some of the signs in the crowd.
A pro-life activist came to peacefully engage with the protesters during last month's Roe v. Wade rally downtown. He was carrying a briefcase with models of different stages of prenatal development. The man, who was named Francis Kennedy, said that he came to the protest because “I know a person that married that had an abortion, and she’s still messed up from it 38 years ago." // Photos by Sophie Schieve
According to City Attorney Jimmy Jordan, Milledgeville has no municipal statute pertaining to vulgar language, whether it's on homemade signs, bumper stickers, yard signs or anything similar.
"Threats or threatening language is not within the parameters of what's allowed and what's not, in terms of free speech," Jordan said. "That's the extent of it, though, I'd say."
The spring of 2020 included weeks of protests in front of the Rotary Peace Monument following the release of the George Floyd video. Prior to that, you'd have to go back to 1971 to find any prolonged series of protests in Milledgeville. In 1971, demonstrators protested against the lack of African-American employees at many downtown businesses, back when downtown was the center of all shopping, locally.