Portsmouth council addresses ways to prevent violent groups from demonstrating

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – On the heels of the chaos in Charlottesville, leaders in Portsmouth are looking at ways to prevent a similar violent eruption.

During Monday night’s city council work session, members discussed ways to ensure that citizens and property are kept safe during protests or demonstrations permitted within the city.

The discussion was brought forth by Councilman Mark Whitaker, stating the council should limit or prohibit groups that have a “pattern” or a history of violence.

Council members all seemed to agree that any sort of known, domestic terrorist group should not be welcomed into the city with open arms.

But several members raised concerns over how such an ordinance could infringe on First Amendment rights. Questions were raised regarding whether particular groups can legally be denied a permit, or whether certain groups can be awarded permits but with certain conditions.

Leaders agreed the matter needs to be explored. There was no date set as to when a potential ordinance should be drafted and voted upon.

Council members did, however, direct the city manager to draft a resolution condemning what occurred in Charlottesville. That resolution will go before council during the formal session on Tuesday.

Purple ribbons will also be handed out to attendees in honor of Heather Heyer, the woman killed during the violent protests.