Police enforce sign policy

A talk in the library loggia on Feb. 23 drew fewer than 15 attendees, more than 26 protestors and two signs. The crowd had gathered to protest Traditional Values Club speaker Elton Moose and his talk entitled “A Scientific Overview of Homosexuality.”
The protestors sat quietly on the floor behind the seating area, their backs to the speaker’s podium. At one point, two students walked to the back with homemade signs. They were immediately confronted by Sinclair police officers.
“We’ve got to tell you to take the sign down,” an officer said to Aja Love, one of the sign-holding students. “Really, you don’t want to do this. We don’t care what your sign says, we care that you follow the procedure.”
Love’s sign read: “You can’t pray away the gay.” Next to her, Joe Moore held “love gay, cure bacon.” After a brief argument with the officers, the students agreed to put away their signs and sit with the other protestors.
According to Chief of Police Charles Gift, Sinclair has enforced a no-sign policy since 1990. The rule is covered by Sinclair’s Campus Access Policy, which sets parameters for the use of campus facilities.
“The policy is not all inclusive,” Gift said. “There are numerous situations that could arise that are not specifically addressed in the policy itself. [The police] retain full discretion to deal with these situations as they come up.”
Signs are not specifically mentioned in the policy, but are forbidden because they can be disruptive, said Gift. Distributing literature and using electronic voice amplification (e.g. loudspeakers) are also prohibited.
Although Sinclair’s campus is public property, it is legally considered a limited public forum and administrators have control over the time, place and manner of events. According to the policy, “there is no absolute right to assemble, to make or hear a speech or make presentations, at any time or place regardless of the circumstances.”
“I think it really boils down to the discretion of the officers and the way in which it is handled,” said Ty Stone, director of business services. “The policy is in place and we have to allow all groups that we have come onto campus to do what they’re doing without disruption…and we try to maintain that across the board.”
Stone said that the school is working on revising the language of the campus access policy to make it easier to understand. Students will be asked for input on the new formulation.
“We’re not trying to censor anyone,” said Stone. “We’re here to support [students]; we’re here to support the free exchange of ideas the best we can.”
Gift recommends that students who plan to protest at an event contact the Sinclair police, for their own safety and to ensure that they fully understand the school’s policy. Failure to abide by the rules can result in the case being sent to Student Judicial Affairs or in criminal charges (disrupting a public meeting is a misdemeanor).
“We encourage people to have different opinions and to be able to voice those as long as they do it in a safe, courteous, and non-disruptive manner,” said Gift. “This policy does not control the content of speech, the only thing it controls is the time, place and manner of that speech.”

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