CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Dozens of anti-abortion protesters packed the Government Center Tuesday night, holding signs saying, “Free speech is not noise” to show opposition proposed noise ordinance changes.
"Forgive me if I don't trust City Council's motives here. I've witnessed free speech silencing strategies before and this noise ordinance looks eerily familiar," protester John Keating said.
Over the coming months, Charlotte City Council is considering a noise buffer banning amplified sound within 200 feet of churches, schools and medical facilities.
The changes would impact the daily protests outside the abortion clinic on Latrobe Drive in east Charlotte.
The Rev. Peter Ascik of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Ballantyne said the proposed changes would impact his ability to help people.
"Our ability to offer help depends on our right to free speech and our free speech is threatened by the proposed changes," Ascik said.
The noise ordinance changes passed in a Charlotte City Council committee meeting last April.
Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt supports the new rules and said the overhaul is in part because the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department asked for it.
"The police said the current ordinance for them is outdated, and that they just can't enforce it because it doesn't apply to what's happening in Charlotte today," Eiselt said.
Eiselt said the changes were designed to be content-neutral and not specifically target any protest groups.
"It does not limit anyone's First Amendment rights," she said.
No supporters of the Latrobe clinic addressed Charlotte City Council Tuesday night but the clinic's director tweeted the new ordinance is "much needed."
Charlotte City Council has not set a date for a public hearing or for a vote on the changes.
To view the proposed new noise ordinance, click here.
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