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Proposal to Regulate Gatherings on County Property Stalls in Committee

The McLean County Board's property committee met remotely, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.

A proposal to regulate gatherings on county property -- which called for issuing organizers a fine if they don't provide advance notice of demonstrations and other events -- has stalled in a McLean County Board committee.

The board’s property committee voted 5-2 on Thursday to table discussion on theproposed ordinance

Chapter 305, as the proposal is known, is an idea from McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp and County Administrator Camille Rodriguez. In August, they had said creating defined rules on public gatherings is needed, as organizers have been confused about how to secure locations for the events.

The proposal first was publicly presented at an August committee meeting, but it was tabled. Several board members raised concerns about the process of how the proposal was being brought to the board, and also how such regulations jelled with Constitutional rights.

As proposed, the ordinance would require organizers to apply for a permit 30 to 60 days prior to an event,  and limit the gatherings, parades and demonstrations mainly to the square in downtown Bloomington. If those events were to occur unauthorized, organizers would face fines of up to $500, and participants could be fined up to $100, under the proposal.

There have been numerous rallies and demonstrations on the square and on the grounds of the Law and Justice Center, most of them in response to the death of George Floyd in late May.

But at Thursday’s committee meeting, board member Elizabeth Johnston moved that a vote on the proposal be tabled. Committee Vice Chair Jacob Beard and member Gerald Thompson voted against the tabling. Beard noted he wanted to first discuss the matter, which wouldn’t be permitted after an agenda item is tabled.

At the start of the remote meeting, streamed on the county’s YouTube channel, county staff read aloud a public comment submitted by Carol Koos, chairperson of the Central Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

She urged the committee to reject the proposal. Specifically, she opposed the proposal’s limitations on people reacting to current events, with spontaneous gatherings being impossible under the proposal’s guidelines. 

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Michele Steinbacher was a WGLT correspondent, joining the staff in 2020. She left the station in 2024.