Two City Hall protesters won't be going to court this week, after all.
On Wednesday, Kip Billups and Ginny Trice were informed they will not be facing trial for alleged violations of Ordinance 7596, which has been dubbed the "anti-camping" ordinance. Charges have been dismissed against the two individuals for the time being. The trial was originally set for this Thursday.
The two activists were charged with violating the law while protesting the very same ordinance at City Hall in March. Records showed Billups and Trice are the only persons to have been charged with violations of the Ordinance since 2017. The law was passed in the summer of 2016.
Following the announcement, Billups said he feels vindicated and believes the charges were an example of "retaliation" against persons who oppose City Hall.
"I have felt all along that I'm a political target of our current mayor," Billups said. "This only represents a fraction of what I have been charged with since May 2nd of this year."
The attorney for Billups and Trice, Blackburn & Brown's Ryan Brown, echoed the sentiments in an interview last week, saying he believes the protesters were charged in "retaliation."
"Look, this is another episode in a pattern of behavior by [Mayor Ginger] Nelson's administration, where they try to suppress free speech," Brown said. "This is a retaliation case that's about going after people for their views."
Brown also said that while the trial has been dismissed this week, it is possible that the City can bring charges against Billups and Trice for the same offense in the future.
Opponents of the ordinance used to charge Billups and Trice have alleged the City of Amarillo uses the ordinance to punish homeless individuals. A petition has been started to put a repeal of the ordinance on a future municipal ballot.
Billups said he hopes that this legal victory will inspire others to become involved in City government to make changes during the May 2019 election.
"It's time for a new Mayor and City Council," Billups said. "It's time to take out the trash at City Hall."