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Resident seeks to designate Veterans Memorial as public speaking facility

The Veterans Memorial Council would be opposed to designating the Woodbury site for speeches and open forums on a regular basis. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

A resident's request for free speech at the Veterans Memorial site in Woodbury has triggered a possible change in a city ordinance.

James Grinols recently approached the city of Woodbury to obtain a permit to speak at the Veterans Memorial site on Sept. 11.

The request was granted, but there was still confusion in the wording of the ordinance, said Woodbury police patrol commander Steve Wills.

Current language in the ordinance may lead people to think they need permits every time they wish to speak at a city open space, Wills said.

However, after consulting with the city attorney, staff concluded that permits aren't required.

"We're mainly concerned with permits related to parades, traffic concerns and those items," Wills said.

But Grinols said he would like to see the Veterans Memorial site be used for anyone to give a speech or hold a public forum at any time.

"It's central to the city," Grinols said. "It's designed almost in a manner that would hold a modest crowd.

"Certainly on Saturday and Sunday, traffic and parking would not be a problem."

Designating Veterans Memorial as a place for public speeches is ultimately up to the City Council, said Bruce Nettleton, vice chair for the Woodbury Lions Veterans Memorial Council.

But the Veterans Council would be opposed to that idea, he said.

"It's not a freedom of speech, open forum kind of a venue," Nettleton said. "We certainly don't want it to be the focal point of the Veterans Memorial."

The Veterans Memorial was built to honor local veterans, he said. More than 300 engraved stones there now recognize fallen soldiers, with about 2,200 still available.

The site usually holds services on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Grinols said as long as public events are not disrupting anybody at the Veterans Memorial site, anyone should be allowed to use the space.

"People like to know that it's permissible, that they're not breaking laws, that they're not disturbing the peace," he added.

Wills said Woodbury Public Safety Department will soon propose an update to the city ordinance that regulates free speeches and assembly.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.