PRO Gainesville founder Justin Thompson said he feels the activist group reached a bit of a victory Monday morning.
Monday, Sept. 28, members of the Cooke County Commissioners' Court unanimously agreed to allow the Gainesville-based organization to place a table on the paved area in front of the Cooke County Courthouse steps on Sundays to distribute information and to register voters. Precinct 4 Commissioner Leon Klement and Precinct 3 Commissioner John Klement were not present for the vote because of a death in their family, Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley said.
No one from Pro Gainesville was in attendance to speak at the meeting inside the commissioners' courtroom at the courthouse at 101 S. Dixon St.
“It’s unfortunate we have to ask permission to place a table on the county property to register voters,” Thompson said after the vote. “However, the county decided this week not to oppress the movement, and that in of itself is a victory.”
Thompson said the original idea was to place the table on the courthouse lawn so those registering to vote could step away from the “crowded concrete area” to fill out voter registration forms and ask questions.
Monday, Oct. 5, is the last day to register to vote if a person wants to cast a ballot for the Nov. 3 presidential election.
PRO Gainesville has been calling since June for the removal of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument that sits on the northeast corner of the courthouse. The organization regularly holds protests Sunday evenings downtown.
The last gathering by the group on Sunday, Sept. 27, drew about 35 protesters, said Gainesville Police Chief Kevin Phillips. He said there were some spectators in the area, as well, but none who were “readily apparent” as counter protesters. He said no enforcement actions were taken.
Thompson said protesting will move back to the courthouse lawn since the table is only allowed on concrete.
During a specially called meeting Friday morning, Sept. 4, members of the commissioners' court unanimously approved a policy regulating signs, symbols, structures, contrivances or devices on county property.
According to the order, which was effective immediately, “a person or persons may not cause or authorize any signs, symbols, structures, contrivances or devices to be placed, installed, affixed or maintained on or over county property including the placement or installation of any signs, structures, contrivances, devices used for commercial or noncommercial purposes, except for items approved by the commissioners’ court.”
Organizations were advised to keep gatherings off the courthouse lawn but are now allowed to do so, Brinkley said. He said the lawn was “opened back up a couple weeks ago.”
Brinkley told the Register Monday that the lawn was taped off because of concerns about damage to the grass “and the several inches of rain we had at that time.”
He said permission is not needed to be on the courthouse lawn but any displays placed on county grounds do need permission from the court.