By jeanne starmack
A rally that was planned to protest a ban on gun sales within city limits is turning into a quick protest march, and its organizer is backing out of promoting it.
The Youngstown State University branch of the Young Americans for Liberty had planned a rally at the city building on Tenney Avenue on Saturday afternoon.
But Varg Freeborn, the YSU chapter’s president, said Tuesday that the city police chief has ordered the group to pay $2,000 for four to six police officers to work at the rally.
Freeborn said the group is withdrawing its request for a permit to have the rally because it doesn’t have the money.
Freeborn told The Vindicator that it appears the group is being made to pay for exercising its right to free speech.
“We have the right to peaceably assemble,” he said.
Freeborn said they were told last week by city officials that there would be no fees or permits associated with the rally, but Tuesday, they were told about having to pay the $2,000.
“We promoted it, and now today, they tell us that per the chief, it’s $2,000 for four to six police officers for one to two hours,” he said.
Chief Gus Sarigianopoulos could not be reached to comment.
Freeborn said that even though there won’t be a rally and YAL will not be involved, Ohioans for Concealed Carry is expected to assemble at city hall for a protest march. It will start at 2 p.m.
The march is to protest an ordinance that bans the sale of guns in the city.
The ordinance bans all gun sales within city limits but was in the process of being amended to exclude private sales by residents. The intent of the ordinance is to prohibit gun stores in the city and was drafted after a Hubbard man’s attempt to open a gun-repair shop on Robinson Road in October.
Law Director Mark Kolmacic advised council in March to repeal the ordinance, which violates Ohio law. Ohioans for Concealed Carry threatened to sue the city over the ordinance.
The ordinance has the support of the city’s police, who say gun stores pose a problem for their understaffed department.
The ordinance was tabled and sent back for committee consideration after Kolmacic’s advisement.
It is expected to be brought out soon and voted on, said Councilwoman Juanita Rich, a gun-rights supporter who is planning to be at the march Saturday.
Ohioans for Concealed Carry also will attend, said Freeborn. On its Web site, that group encourages supporters to attend “carrying firearms openly or not.”
Rich says she doesn’t remember the city’s charging organizations $2,000 for assemblies in the past.
“That’s insane,” she said. “Aren’t they on duty anyway? And why do you need that many policemen? It’s a peaceful rally anyway.”
Rich said the ordinance is expected to be repealed, but there likely will be opposition to that action.
“They [YAL] wanted to show support,” she said.
Unlike the concealed-carry group, YAL is not a gun-rights organization, Freeborn said. He said the group protests constitutional violations.