The Long Beach City Council could adopt a new law that would ban “targeted protests” from happening within 300 feet of a person’s home and could allow the targets of the protest to sue protesters for damages in court.
The council is expected to discuss the proposal at its Tuesday meeting.
Long Beach councilmembers requested the ordinance in September 2021, calling it a means to combat “overreaching tactics to intimidate public officials.” Members have faced protests at their homes over local health orders implemented during the pandemic and from advocacy groups seeking policy changes on renters’ protections, to name a few.
At least one of those protests resulted in violence between a resident and a protester, and the council said it hoped the buffer would allow neighbors who did not sign up to be a public official to live in their homes in peace.
The proposed ordinance would be similar to other California cities like San Jose, which has had a 300-foot rule in place since 1993, which sought to protect abortion workers from protests at their homes. Los Angeles adopted its own law in 2021.
A draft of the ordinance defines “targeted picketing” as marching or picketing activity that is “directed at a particular residential dwelling and occurs in front of the residential dwelling and/or which proceeds on a definite course or route in front of or around that particular dwelling.”
Long Beach’s ordinance would allow any “aggrieved person” to seek damages in court from protesters who violate the 300-foot rule if the council adopts it. The person suing could be entitled to any costs like attorney’s fees and other relief as determined by a judge.
Violating the 300-foot rule would also be enforceable by the city and could amount to a misdemeanor charge or an infraction, which could carry its own fines and penalties.
Los Angeles’ rule allows the person being targeted or their neighbors to seek $1,000 from protesters for each violation. The American Civil Liberties Union opposed LA’s adoption of the rule, questioning its necessity and saying it would limit protesters’ voices from being heard by their intended audience.
When the council asked the city attorney to begin working on an ordinance in 2021, just one member voted against it. Councilmember Roberto Uranga said then he would not support the ordinance because he believed people had the right to protest and it was a risk that he knew he was taking when he ran for office.