City of Augusta says arrests will be made for those who attend a candlelit vigil for a veteran’s service dog that was shot by an Augusta police officer last week
City officials claim a permit is needed to hold the vigil
Many plan on still attending the Vigil despite the threat of arrest
Alan Fitzgerald’s dog was shot by an Augusta Police Officer last Thursday
Witness accounts are much different then the narrative given by Public Safety Director Tyler Brewer
Brewer claims that the officer shot the dog because he “feared for his life”
UPDATE: Since publishing this article, Augusta City Manager Josh Shaw has reached out to TDH and said that an agreement has been reached. The area at 420 E Augusta Avenue has been approved for use and is pictured below.
Augusta Police have delivered a despicable response to those wishing to mourn veteran Alan Fitzgerald’s service dog Midnite who was shot by an Augusta police officer last week.
Those who feel the shooting was wrong after hearing several witnesses narratives of the shooting wish to do a peaceful candlelit vigil outside of the Augusta Police Department. Witness accounts of the shooting are far different from the police narrative.
Public Safety Director Tyler Brewer claims that Midnite busted through the screen door and was in lunging in the air at an animal control officer when a police officer shot and killed Midnite. Brewer said that the officer “feared for his life.”
Witnesses say that is not what happened. Multiple neighbors claim to have seen the police officer enter Fitzgerald’s home without permission after banging on the door. Fitzgerald was in the bathroom, where he heard the shooting play out.
The City of Augusta has snapped back at those wishing to hold a vigil for Midnite by threatening anybody who shows up at the vigil with arrest. Despite, those wishing to attend planning on staying on public sidewalks, city officials are stating that a permit is needed.
City officials are using a loophole in our freedom of speech. While the First and Fourteenth Amendment protects our right to a peaceful assembly, it does give local governments the ability to control the assembly. This normally includes time, place, and manner restrictions.
The Supreme Court has held that it is constitutionally permissible that local governments require a permit to conduct a peaceful assembly. However, Augusta city officials are pushing that rule more than they should be.
A permit is typically required if it is going to be a march or parade that does not stay on the sidewalk and other events that require blocking traffic or street closure, a large rally requiring the use of sound amplifying devices; or a rally at certain designated parks or plazas. The vigil for Midnite does not meet any of those basic guidelines.
The City of Augusta was said to have stated they would not issue a permit for Midnite’s vigil. This alone is a problem. The Supreme Court has made it very clear that Government officials cannot prohibit a public assembly in their own discretion.
While some permits can take weeks to obtain, the First Amendment prohibits such an advance notice requirement from being used to prevent rallies or demonstrations that are rapid responses to unforeseeable and recent events.
TDH attempted to find the exact code for Augusta that states a permit must be obtained for a peaceful assembly, but were not able to find anything stating that, even when we looked through the city’s municipal code.
What we were able to find is that under Chapter XI Article 2 “Local Regulations,” is that you must have a permit to use a loudspeaker, which was never suggested to be used for Midnite’s vigil.
Supporters of Midnite say they will still attend the peaceful vigil. It is ridiculous to think that the City of Augusta would rather arrest those attending than allow a 20 minute vigil for those upset by last weeks incident.
Midnite’s vigil is planned for 7:00 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017 on the sidewalks across from the Augusta Police Department. Below is an interview with Fitzgerald hours after the shooting occurred.