The Los Angeles City Council tentatively approved an ordinance Tuesday that would prohibit protests within 300 feet of the target’s residence, a policy developed after activists protesting the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate showed up at two council members’ homes late last month.
The ordinance received 12 yes votes, with Councilwoman Nithya Raman and Councilman Mike Bonin casting dissenting votes. The ordinance required unanimous approval on its first reading, and will be held until next week, when it will require 12 yes votes to pass.
Ordinances typically require a simple majority upon the second reading, but this ordinance includes an urgency clause to go into effect immediately upon publication. When urgency clauses are included, the ordinance requires approval from three-fourths of the City Council.
The motion to request the ordinance was introduced by Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell on Aug. 31. Two days earlier, an anti-vaccine mandate protester at a Santa Monica rally shared the addresses of council members and encouraged people to go to their homes if they voted yes on an ordinance to require at least partial proof of vaccination before entering most indoor public spaces in the city.
“We have one week to stop the (vaccination) passports … if it’s unanimous, we’ve lost. Sharpen your knives, get your guns, get your food now,” the protester said while holding a sign with council members’ home addresses. “… We find out who voted yes and you show up at their house. We need to intimidate these people.”
After the rally, protesters, including gubernatorial recall candidate David Alexander Bramante, showed up at the homes of Martinez and O’Farrell.
“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 bullhorns asking me to come out and threatening my life,” Martinez said before the vote. “Members, quite frankly, I’m done with the entire thing. I’m done with the threats … I am prepared to put an end to this.”
Martinez said people who want to protest elected officials should go to their offices, not their homes.
“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,” she said.
Speaking from City Hall on Monday during an unrelated news conference, Mayor Eric Garcetti similarly said that he thinks it’s important to protect the rights of private citizens, including neighbors of public officials and people who live with public officials. He added that some of the “darkest chapters” in U.S. history involve people targeting private homes.
Protesters with Sunrise Movement L.A., Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Tenants Union, People’s City Council, Street Watch L.A., Ktown For All, and J-Town Action demonstrated against the ordinance outside Martinez’s house by banging pots and pans and speaking through bullhorns early Tuesday. It appeared some of the protesters, who were standing on the sidewalk in front of Martinez’s driveway, were in violation of the city’s current laws, which prohibit “targeted demonstrations focused upon and at or about a private residence” that take place within 100 feet of the address.
Raman cast the sole dissenting vote on the motion to develop the ordinance, saying the city should focus on enforcing its existing law instead of adding an ordinance that “will likely have the exact same problems in its design and its enforcement.”
Bonin voted for the motion to request the ordinance but expressed concerns, saying that the city needs to focus on enforcement of existing laws. Neither Raman nor Bonin spoke before casting their dissenting votes Tuesday.
Several people called into the council meeting to oppose the ordinance, calling it a violation of First Amendment rights. Ricci Sergienko of the People’s City Council said he would sue the city if the ordinance takes effect.
The draft ordinance states that a person who is “aggrieved” by violators of the ordinance can sue for damages. The violator may also face a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation.