Calling it a means to combat “overreaching tactics to intimidate public officials,” the Long Beach City Council asked the city attorney to start drawing up an ordinance that could prohibit protestors from being with 300-feet of their homes.
Nearly all members of the City Council and the mayor have had their homes targeted by protestors in the past but the city does not have a policy in place that establishes a buffer between public officials’ homes and protestors.
The ordinance would apply to any target of a protest, whether they’re elected or not.
The request by the Long Beach council came shortly after the Los Angeles City Council initiated a process to establish a 300-foot rule in LA. Council. The LA request was made by LA Council President Nury Martinez, who had her home targeted by anti-vaccination protestors in August.
“I knew that this job came with certain responsibilities and vulnerabilities but at the same time we have to say enough is enough,” said Councilman Al Austin, who authored the Long Beach item.
Austin was supported by three other council members including Cindy Allen, Mary Zendejas and Suzie Price.
Price’s house has been targeted by protestors a number of times and she said that the political divisions that exist have created potentially dangerous situations when people of opposing viewpoints gather.
Price said that one of her neighbors sat on his porch with a loaded shotgun during one of the protests at her house, noting that the home between theirs has a family with small children.
One of the instances involved moving vans being parked in front of multiple members’ homes last November. The protest was organized by people against businesses being closed due to COVID-19 regulations.
The organizer invited 26,000 people to show up to an event they created online, said Price, who, like other council members, had a van parked outside her home for three days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It was overkill to say the least,” said Councilman Daryl Supernaw, who said he spent the holiday on a conference call with police and other affected council members. “I did not have my family at my house last Thanksgiving.”
Some members expressed concern about how a potential ordinance would be enforced, or how it could infringe on the community’s right to protest and if it would put police officers into dangerous situations when enforcing it.
Councilman Roberto Uranga said he would not support the ordinance. “I think the people have a right to do so and we know that when we get into this job that is very much a possibility,” Uranga said.
It’s not clear how the ordinance will be worded but Austin said that the city of San Jose’s ordinance could be a blue print. San Jose’s ordnance has been in place since 1993 and establishes the same 300-foot rule Long Beach is now seeking.
That law was upheld by a state appeals court but has not been appealed to a higher court.
The City Council is expected to get a report on how the ordinance would work and how it could be enforced prior to voting on the proposed ordinance. There was no specific timeframe for the ordinance to return to the council for consideration.