One week after a deadly fight between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va., a Ku Klux Klan rally was allegedly coming to Durham. 

Rumors swirled the morning of Aug. 18 that the Klan was planning to march later that day. Within hours, hundreds of counter-protesters took to the streets to stop a rally that never happened. 

But now, a proposed Durham County policy could make anyone wanting to protest wait two days to take to the streets.  The proposed policy, discussed Jan. 2 by the Durham County commissioners, would require protestors in a group of 50 or more to apply for a permit 48 hours before a protest, as proposed in a Aug. 31 letter from Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews. 

Andrews cited axe and gun-toting protesters in downtown Durham as one of the reasons why the sheriff’s department needs more time to ensure that all involved can be safe. 

"I hope never to see again such reckless disregard for human life during a purportedly peaceful demonstration," Andrews wrote in the letter. "Civility cannot be a suggestion, it must be required." 

In his guiding principles for the proposal, Andrews wrote that such a proposal would help protect private and public property, hold criminals accountable and protect citizens from violence. He also said that the community supports citizens rights to peacefully assemble and "exercise their First Amendment rights." 

Although Andrews says he is committed to protecting citizens’ rights to free speech and assembly, others are unsure that such a proposal would allow for free protest, including Durham County Commissioner Heidi Carter. 

“I really am concerned that it’s going to put a gag on legitimate protests,” Carter said in the Jan. 2 meeting, as reported by WRAL. Many of the other members also disapproved of the policy. 

After hearing their complaints, Durham County Attorney Lowell Siler, who presented the amendment, said he would make changes to the policy. One activist, Greg Williams, who participated in the counter-protest in Charlottesville and in Durham, also expressed disapproval. 

“They know they can’t criminalize it, but they also want to make it go away,” Williams told the Durham Herald-Sun. “That’s not uncommon when there’s a death in the jail or a major crisis that calls for an immediate response. Oftentimes there’s a real-life situation on the ground in which we’re trying to intervene.”

Siler maintained that Andrews and the sheriff’s office is committed to allowing free protests. 

“We want people to be able to express themselves and express their First Amendment rights,” Siler said in an WRAL article. “Also, we want to make sure everyone else, the demonstrators and everyone else, is safe at the same time.”