At their council meeting on Monday evening Gettysburg Borough said local resident Matthew Anselmi had been cited by the police department for organizing a public gathering on the Gettysburg Square without a special events permit. The event in question was the vigil for Ukraine held on March 5 which brought over 100 people to the square.
The relevant ordinance says there is a need for the borough to “ensure public health, safety, and welfare through the regulation of special events” and that a permit is therefore required for events with more than 30 people.
But Anselmi said in a message to the Connection that he was not the lead organizer of the event and would contest the citation. “There were registered nonprofits and churches with committees involved,” he said.
If found guilty Anselmi could receive a fine of up to $600 plus court costs.
Anselmi said he did not create the fliers for the event and was not sure who contacted the speakers. “I hadn’t ever met or spoken to several of them until the day of the vigil,” he said.
Anselmi said he thought he had been targeted due to his activism and having led protests and other vigils in the past. “Sharing Facebook posts doesn’t make one an organizer and if it does then about 150 more citations need to be written,” he said.
“There are several aspects of the 1st amendment that are violated here,” he said.
The borough said at their Monday meeting they had waived permit fees for events such as this one and the application says permits for “spontaneously planned” events can be applied for as little as 48 hours before the event.
Borough Solicitor Harry Eastman said the ordinance had been rewritten to be consistent with constitutional provisions.
A trial has been set for June 7.
Featured Image: The Rev. Chris Thomas from St. Paul’s Lutheran of Littlestown speaks at the March 5 vigil [Josue Salinas]