In a 13-2 vote, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday that bans protests from taking place within 300 feet of the targeted person’s residence.
The ordinance specifically targets groups and organizations who use violent or abusive tactics, as well as those that can be considered a public nuisance. The ordinance also states that those aggrieved by violators can sue them for damages, with protest violators facing a fine of up to $1,000 per violation. Protests in other areas, such as outside of government buildings, are not covered by the new ordinance.
Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell introduced the ordinance last month following several large protests that got out of hand. In particular, protests surrounding the city council passing a sweeping homeless encampment ban in late July and introducing a stricter COVID-19 vaccination mandate last month proved to be largely disruptive to many Councilmembers, as well as other lawmakers such as Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose home was vandalized following signing in the homeless encampment ban on July 30th.
Martinez in particular noted how protesters last month had threatened her and other Council Members when they passed a law requiring proof of vaccination in some public areas. A protest in Santa Monica received the addresses of the city council members and dispersed to each one of their houses as a continuation of the rally, where the Council members confronted them close up.
“I had a group of folks show up at my doorstep, banging on my door, banging on my windows, harassing my neighbors, screaming obscenities into my daughter’s bedroom and yelling into bull horns asking me to come out and threatening my life,” Martinez explained last month when introducing her measure.
As the ordinance would help reduce harassment from protestors on all sides of the political spectrum, it received near universal support during the initial vote on September 14th. However, Councilwoman Nithya Raman and Councilman Mike Bonin both cast dissenting votes following many groups pointing out to them that it would restrict the first amendment rights of groups such as Black Lives Matter, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, and Sunrise Movement LA.
“These are good organizations being roped together with anti-vaxxers and others here,” explained LA-based protest organizer Ja-Li Smith to the Globe on Wednesday. “This really hurts our efforts to get our point across when we’re being treated the same way as all of these others that resort to public annoyance measures to get their point across.”
Ordinance passes 13-2 after second vote on Tuesday
However, many of those organizations named as “peaceful” organizations also began to ramp up their harassment tactics following the vote on the 14th. Protesters with Sunrise Movement L.A., Black Lives Matter, the Los Angeles Tenants Union, Street Watch LA, and others stayed outside Martinez’s house by banging pots and pans, speaking through bullhorns, and engaging in all the same tactics that the vaccine protestors had done only weeks before.
“They were being very hypocritical,” explained a close by neighbor of Martinez who asked for anonymity on Wednesday. “I can’t say too much else, but I will say they were even worse than the anti-vax crowd out here before them. Everyone is trying to say that they’re better, but I’ve seen what they do. They are no better than them. In fact, they’re even worse because they disturbed a lot more people. And guess what, doing that only hardens your resolve to move them back. And that’s what they did yesterday, isn’t it?”
Undeterred, the City Council voted again on Tuesday on the ordinance. As the ordinance was marked with an emergency clause, it requires a 3/4th majority of votes rather than a simple majority the second time around. Voting held the same 13-2, causing it to pass even with Raman and Bonin still dissenting on the basis that the city needs to focus on enforcing the current law rather than increasing the radius.
“I think it’s clear to me that these protests are now starting to escalate more and more, and what I’m really concerned about is the escalation of an actual violent event taking place anywhere in our neighborhoods,” added Council President Martinez on Tuesday. “No staffers, no family members of ours should be subjected to this kind of treatment. My address and my home is not a public place for you to come and protest.”
A lawsuit against the ordinance is likely to be filed soon after it’s passage on Tuesday, as many organizations, such as the People’s City Council, have said that they would do so as they believed that it is a First Amendment violation.
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