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LA city council crack down on protests and disruptive behavior


Members of the Los Angeles City Council have largely backed down last year as protesters angry over mask warrants and police budgets regularly staged loud protests outside politicians’ homes.

On Tuesday, city council members sent their own message: they’ve had enough.

City council has given final approval to a law that requires a 300-foot buffer zone around a private residence targeted for the protest and imposes fines on violators. The council also passed new laws designed to crack down on disruptive behavior at City Hall and to prohibit visitors from carrying maces, knives and similar items into city facilities.

Council votes signaled mayor’s rejection of direct tactics by left and right activists, protests using megaphones, marches and moving cars, as well as more aggressive tactics.

The protests, which are part of activists’ national trend to target the private residences of officials, began when many government buildings closed due to the pandemic.

In some cities, protesters left property damage behind. In Oakland, Mayor Libby Schaaf’s home has been vandalized. In Sacramento, the home of Mayor Darrell Steinberg was hit by stones. And a municipal commissioner’s house in Portland, Ore., Was damaged after a municipal vote against police funding.

City Council Chairman Nury Martinez, whose Sun Valley home has been repeatedly targeted by protesters, said on Tuesday that the tone of the protests was now “completely out of control”. She also said she feared violence could break out and that the protest law was not about “silencing voices”.

“This is about protecting our family members, our children and our neighbors from aggressive and targeted protests at all hours of the day and night,” Martinez said. “When you come to my street to shout on megaphones outside my house, not only do you disrespect my family, but you also disrespect the community and the neighbors who live there. “

Lawyers who focus on 1st Amendment rights have questioned why the council is not using existing laws to combat trespassing or targeted threats.

Peter Eliasberg, chief attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said the Los Angeles Police Department had a history of mass arrests and abuse of force. Giving officers another order to enforce is “an invitation to trouble.”

“I’m concerned about this type of legislation that says, ‘Let’s make protests even harder,’” Eliasberg said, referring to the new 300-foot buffer law.

City officials modeled the law on that of San Jose, noting that the law has survived legal challenges.

Lawyer Carol Sobel, who has won several lawsuits against the city, said she expects the courts to overturn the order. “If you don’t like it, find another job,” Sobel said of politicians unhappy with the protests.

Protesters took to the streets at the start of the pandemic, with protesters calling for moratoria on rent evictions and more. At the same time, groups opposed to mask warrants demonstrated outside City Hall and Getty House, the official residence of the mayor of LA.

Then, the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis sparked widespread marches and elevated the work of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles. The city council responded by cutting $ 150 million from the LAPD budget and focusing its next budget more narrowly on social justice.

People have seen the success of Black Lives Matter and the Marches, said political consultant Jasmyne Cannick.

“Other groups saw that this strategy was working,” Cannick said. “By protesting, they saw that change could happen. “

Supporters of the new laws pointed to the property damage and violent rhetoric employed by the protesters.

Martinez’s car was vandalized earlier this summer by two individuals who also wrote the phrase “end sweeps” on its driveway, a reference to sweeps of homeless settlements in the city that force people to remove their vehicles. tents. Protesters also defaced Getty House in July.

At a recent anti-vaccination rally in Santa Monica, a local activist
Jason Lefkowitz warned that if a vaccination mandate envisioned by city council is passed, activists should “take up your arms.” The speaker also released the addresses of city council members, according to the video of the event.

Lefkowitz, on Twitter, denied saying that people should bring guns to other people’s homes. “I said to prepare for what would happen to their door,” he wrote.

The LAPD interviewed Lefkowitz and determined that words and statements fall under activity protected by the 1st Amendment, LAPD spokesman Raul Jovel said.

In a year that began with the deadly Jan.6 attack on the United States Capitol, threats against lawmakers are skyrocketing. In the first three months of 2021, the United States Capitol Police recorded 4,135 threats against members of Congress. If this pace continues, the total number of threats this year will double from 2020.

Despite restrictions prohibiting people from attending Los Angeles city council meetings due to COVID-19, city council members have decided to curb the behavior of people visiting city hall.

At a committee meeting last week, council members reviewed proposed laws to crack down on unruly behavior and ban weapons from the building.

At one point, City Councilor Joe Buscaino said “more consequences around town hall” are needed. The city councilor, referring to the public meetings before the pandemic, cited the “disturbances in the corridors” and “the childish behavior of the phalluses who frequent our buildings”.

Under the law focused on unruly behavior, police officers can issue citations for actions such as doodling on city property, singing without permission or sitting on the floor of a building, according to a presentation on the order by the chief assistant of the city. David Michaelson.

Violators are liable to fines of $ 100 for the first offense. Second and subsequent offenses are punishable by fines of $ 250 or tort prosecution.

The law states that no person shall remain on a property operated by the city “in violation of a posted rule promulgated by the head of department in accordance with the Charter to ensure the preservation, maintenance, effective and efficient management and the safe use of property and facilities by the public and city employees.

The other law backed by the city council prohibits people from entering city buildings while carrying sledgehammers, cutters, martial arts weapons and other prohibited items. The law allows officers to search visitors and their belongings at any time.

Opponents of the law have described it as overbreadth, especially when it comes to items carried by more vulnerable populations.

“If a woman who takes Metro to the library cannot bring pepper spray [into facilities?]Asked Rob Quan, who heads Unrig LA, an activist group focused on issues of representative government and money in politics. “What about homeless residents carrying their only belongings? Shouldn’t they be able to walk into a facility in the city to get the services they need to find housing? “

The two ordinances focused on banning guns and unruly behavior in government buildings were introduced to city council members several years ago, but were only recently brought forward, Michaelson said.