I arrived on Union Square in downtown Hickory NC this morning around 11:30AM for a little Street Photography… It sure was a beautiful day to do such.
Upon my arrival I noticed a guy just east of me on the square, spreading his religious beliefs, in a very respectful manner. He had a little music going (at a normal level) in the background, while he was peacefully spreading his message. I looked over at him, waved, and took his photograph. He was grateful, and thanked me. I returned to him a thumbs up.
I continued on taking photographs of whatever I could see from my position.
After about one hour of being on the square, I decided that I’d take a walk, circling back to Union Square, to see what if anything I found interesting to photograph.
Upon my return to Union Square I noticed Hickory Police Depart vehicles right where I had been previously sitting, taking photos.
I made my way back over and immediately noticed that 2 Hickory Police Officers were talking with the guy that was there spreading his religious beliefs previously. He was gathering his belongings and began to depart. During this time 2 additional Hickory Police Officers arrived on scene, for a total of 4.
Not wanting to be part of the scene, another gentleman and I waited until the guy spreading his religious message had departed, and we went over to speak with the officers. The other gentleman, like myself was very concerned if his First Amendment Right had been violated. One of the officers quickly explained that he had left on his on accord, that he was not being forced to leave.
I asked, had someone called? I was told yes. The officer relayed that the caller said he was yelling at people, and they had a duty to investigate. I immediately spoke up and told the officers that I had been sitting nearby for about an hour, and at no time while I was there did he yell at anyone. He was being very respectful, and simply using his First Amendment Right on the public square. The other gentleman agreed. I then informed all of the officers that were there, the right thing to do would be go have a talk with the caller, and let that person know this guy had every right to be where he was, doing what he was doing. Please go educate the complainant about our rights.
One of the officers did express gratitude for what the other gentleman and I told them, giving them a totally different perspective of what was occurring. I am very appreciative for these officers allowing the other gentleman and I to give our account of what this guy was actually doing.
I am going to see if a report is filed, try to obtain a copy of it, for a follow up posting.
October 28 2022 UPDATE.
As of today (10-28-22) there is NO reference to this incident posted on the Hickory Police Departments website. One would think that an incident where 5 Hickory Police officers were on the scene, would warrant a report to be generated.