The Town attempts to regulate the times the Bandstand/Public Plaza area is used, the location of its use (not blocking public thoroughfare) and the manner of its use. What the Town cannot regulate, once our requirements of time and manner are met, is who uses the area and what they say. The right to assemble and express yourself in a public area are well known and protected Constitutional Rights.
The Town received a request from a person purporting to be a member of the “Aryan Nations” asking to use the Bandstand/Plaza area for a rally to protest illegal immigration. It was clear to the Town that even if it refused to officially register the group to use the Bandstand/Plaza, the group, being well versed in its member’s Constitutional rights, would hold a rally regardless. In order to exercise some control of the rally and have it conducted in a time and manner that suited the Town, the Town officially registered the group’s use of the Bandstand/Plaza on September 18th between 11AM and 1PM.
The Town has been in a regular dialog with both State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies regarding this event and promises that this rally will be conducted in a manner that assures public safety.
It has been portrayed that somehow the Town had the ability to refuse to allow this group to meet in a public place and publicly express their views. That is not the case. The same laws that allow a Scoutmaster to bring his Troop to the Bandstand/Plaza for a presentation during the summer or a Minister his Congregation for an Easter Sunrise Service are the same laws that protect this group. We have no special powers in Bethany Beach to abridge Constitutional rights of assembly and speech, regardless of how noxious we find the message, and that we guess is what our Founder’s intended.
Some residents have expressed a concern that the Town did not notice residents this rally had been scheduled. First, this rally does not pose a public safety risk to our residents and the Town will have an appropriate level of law enforcement officials assigned to cover the event. In addition, the Town has made every effort to provide no free publicity to this group that would encourage individuals with opposing points of view or simple curiosity seekers to attend the event. The Town has taken this approach after conferring with both State and Federal Law Enforcement Officials and upon their advice.
Pray for rain, we are.