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March 18, 2014

City Council says no prayer vigil on street

PLATTSBURGH — City Common councilors denied one group permission to hold an event on city streets but approved another.

Councilors voted 4-2 at a recent session to deny a request from the Bishop’s Apostles for Life to use three parking spaces in front of Planned Parenthood of the North Country New York at 66 Brinkerhoff St. for its annual prayer vigil from 10 to 11 a.m. Good Friday, April 18.

Later in the meeting, they unanimously approved a request from SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Womyn’s Concerns to hold a “Take Back The Night” march in city streets from 10 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. April 26.

‘VALUABLE PARKING SPACES’

Councilor Rachelle Armstrong (D-Ward 1) said she was against the Apostles For Life request because the group would be taking up valuable parking spaces in the Center City.

“The deprivation of those spaces causes hardship to business and residents,” she said at the meeting.

Becky Kasper (D-Ward 5) said she was against the request because it was not fair or appropriate.

“It’s akin to someone against the diamond trade protesting in front of a jewelry store,” she said.

‘FREE-SPEECH ISSUE’

The Apostles for Life has held its prayer vigil in front of Planned Parenthood for several years as a way of raising awareness of the practice of abortion at the facility.

They need permission from the city to use the parking spaces, which are city property.

The request is often met with controversy.

Mayor James Calnon said he has often debated whether the prayer vigil is a religious service or a protest. In the end, he said he felt the event should be allowed to proceed.

“It is a free-speech issue, and I would support this,” he said.

Joining Armstrong and Kasper in voting against the group’s request were Michael Kelly (D-Ward 2) and Josh Kretser (D-Ward 6).

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