Bridgeport prepares for protests at Franklin Graham event

May 28, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — City officials are planning for protests in advance of a event hosted by evangelist the Rev. Franklin Graham on Tuesday evening.

Graham, son of famed preacher Billy Graham, is scheduled to hold a stop on his “Decision America Tour” at Seaside Park beginning about 7:30 p.m.

He hopes to “bring a message of hope and God’s love to Connecticut” during the event, according to a prepared statement about the tour.

But Bridgeport officials do not think everyone will be happy to see Graham — who has courted controversy in the past with remarks about gay rights and praise of President Donald Trump — in the Park City.

A police department spokesperson said in a prepared statement that police have become aware of local organizations attending the event in protest, so they’ve set up a “Freedom of Speech” zone to accommodate them.

Police said a designated “Press Staging Area” would also be set up, and asked members of the media to use it.

Tuesday’s event just under three weeks after Tara O’Neill, a reporter for Hearst Connecticut Media, was handcuffed and detained while covering a protest on Fairfield Avenue — and then “un-arrested” without being charged.

In a letter a day after that incident, Hearst Connecticut Media Vice President of News and Digital Content Matt DeRienzo asked for a fuller explanation. He said Tuesday he’s still waiting — and asked police not to restrict coverage of Graham’s event.

“With another public protest being planned in the city this evening, which we plan to cover, we are concerned about how our staff will be treated and whether their safety and ability to do their jobs as journalists will be respected and protected,” DeRienzo said.

A city official said the staging area would be optional and not intended as a restriction.

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