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Activist to burn Nazi-Confederate flag at York County Judicial Center
A settlement reached in federal court between York County and a Harrisburg activist will allow Gene Stilp to hold his flag-burning demonstration, which was originally scheduled for November.
Stilp, who has held similar demonstrations burning hybrid Nazi-Confederate flags across the state, delayed his plans in York County after receiving a permit denial letter from county solicitor Glenn Smith.
In his letter, Smith cited an ordinance requiring that "any person who desires to congregate, assemble or use county property" must make such request in a letter at least 60 days in advance of the desired time of use and include a check for $100.
The ordinance was enacted in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to place restrictions on use of county property by individuals or groups "likely to create clear and present danger to the public safety and welfare."
Stilp then filed a lawsuit against the county, arguing that the ordinance violated the First Amendment "in so many ways," including imposing restrictions to assemble based on a group or individual's message, vague rules and outdated references.
Stilp said Tuesday, Feb. 27, that he and the county had come to an agreement allowing him to hold his demonstration and requiring the county to change its ordinance.
He will hold the demonstration — as part of his fight against racism, he said — at noon Wednesday, Feb. 28, on the steps outside the York County Judicial Center, 45 N. George St. in York City.
A county spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment about when or how the ordinance would change.
The lawsuit still sits in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania pending a ruling or agreement on refunding attorney fees, Stilp said.
Stilp added that the county could've saved money if it had just negotiated with him as he had originally requested.
He has never had any issues acquiring necessary permits to hold his demonstration in other counties throughout the state, he said, and he plans to conduct his next flag-burning demonstration in Lycoming County.
Stilp also will be turning his attention to a congressional campaign, as he recently announced he would be running for the Democratic nomination in the newly drawn 10th District.
Under the new map, redrawn by the state Supreme Court, the 10th District will include all of Dauphin County and parts of York and Cumberland counties. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, lives in the district.
— Reach David Weissman at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.