CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte City Council’s meeting on Monday evening was interrupted by a group of protestors who briefly rushed the floor and disrupted proceedings, leading to three arrests.
An approved change to a Charlotte ordinance will prevent protestors and other groups from projecting amplified sound including bullhorns and loud speakers within 150 feet of operating churches, schools, and medical clinics.
City council put this to a vote Monday night. At the heart of the debate beforehand, sat a conflict between pro-life protesting group Love Life and the Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte.
Protestors spoke out about abortion rights and the noise ordinance proposed by the city while also standing on the dais and displaying a banner suggesting that the city ‘silences women’ and ‘amplifies misogyny.'
The two groups have been at odds for years. Employees of the clinic claim the protestors’ methods are too aggressive and loud outside their facility.
From the start Monday, as speakers gathered outside council chambers, it became clear – there were two clear sides planning to speak during the public comment for this issue.
Those “for” the ordinance change said they don’t realistically expect the protestors to leave the area, but would welcome a noise buffer, considering it a step in the right direction.
“You can get your message across without it being at a volume that is damaging to people mentally and physically,” Nicole Ash said.
Representatives of the Love Life group said they believed the entire effort and change was pointed toward their presence outside the clinic.
“It is targeted to the pro-life message,” Pastor Leon Threntt said. “It’s targeted to the Love Life team that’s out there on Latrobe Drive.”
After receiving several verbal warnings to return and be seated, the City Council called a recess and three of the individuals involved were arrested and charged with disrupting an official meeting. Two other suspects ran from the building and have not been apprehended.
Landon Rice, 24, Julia McCarthy, 18, and Benson Crooks, 21, were arrested. They each face charges of failing to disperse on command.
Within the meeting, more than 100 people spoke for and against.
Some insisted the proposed ordinance changes impede their freedom of speech.
“If government can restrict one place that you cannot proclaim your message, it can restrict any place,” one of those speakers said from the podium.
And others insisted, it’s not about the content of the message, but the method used.
“This is not a vote about abortion,” another speaker said. “It’s not about religious beliefs, it’s about the right for all the citizens in this city to feel safe.”