CANTON — An ordinance has been drafted that could set limitations on what type of displays could be part of parades in Canton.
The document, which was prepared by Alderman Ralph Hamlett, would lead to several changes, but perhaps the biggest change — one drove the writing of the ordinance — would enable town officials to screen parade entries, particularly those that display the Confederate Battle flag.
“This is one thing I said I’d do … I made a promise I would look into this,” Hamlett said. “A promise I make is not a promise to be taken lightly.”
The ordinance being proposed is in response to complaints Hamlett received when several trucks rode in Canton's Labor Day parade with Confederate Battle flags prominently displayed. While the parade entries were filled out under a business name, there were nothing on the pickups with the rebel flags that depicted ties to the business.
Hamlett said that the ordinance is now in Town Attorney William Morgan’s hands so he can verify its legality. Hamlett said he read ordinances from Oregon to North Carolina and coordinated with the Antidiscrimination League while writing it to ensure it aligns with all applicable laws. He added that he expects the board to discuss the ordinance at the next meeting.
“We’ll have to see what other town officials want,” he said.
The part of the ordinance which could allow for the banning of certain Confederate flags reads:
“3) Entries must be appropriate for diverse family audiences:
a) An entry may not include any image or content that includes nudity, profanity, lewdness, illegal drugs, violence, obscenity, hate, racism, or that is vulgar or sexually explicit, insulting or offensive to any ethnic, religious, political or other identifiable group or individual, or that may incite violence or other disrupted behaviors not conducive to a celebratory theme as determined by parade official(s) or law enforcement personnel;
b) Advocates for causes that fall outside the nature of celebratory events designed for diverse family audiences may petition law enforcement or the governing body for an appropriate venue for expression of their cause consistent with established First Amendment precedents concerning ‘time, place, and manner.’”
Hamlett said that considering parades are family events, everyone has a right to feel safe and comfortable.
“It isn’t only against the Confederate flag … there’s more in there too,” he said.
The next town meeting will be held Thursday, Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of Canton’s municipal building.