During the first Los Angeles City Council meeting of the year, attendees were reminded Tuesday of newly enacted rules aimed at cracking down on people who repeatedly cause disruptions.
Under the rules, which were approved in late October and went into effect on Jan. 1, a person who is removed from a City Council or council committee meeting will be banned from attending some future sessions.
A city attorney’s staffer read a summary of the stricter access rules in the Council Chamber as the council meeting got underway. The rules were also posted outside the chamber.
Critics — including the American Civil Liberties Union — have blasted the rule changes, which required a two-thirds vote of the City Council, as a potential infringement on free-speech rights.
A handful of people are routinely ejected from council or committee meetings for violating rules, including yelling out or being disruptive when it is not their turn to speak. It is not uncommon for them to be ejected from multiple meetings in one day.
Ron Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, told City News Service that as of late Tuesday afternoon, no one had been removed from either the full City Council meeting nor several committee meetings, including the Budget and Finance Committee session on Monday, which was the first official meeting of any City Council committee in 2019. It’s unclear whether the stricter rules were actively deterring violations that would result in removal.
The council’s previous rules allowed for someone to be kicked out for being disruptive, but only from that specific meeting. Under the new rules, if someone is kicked out of a meeting more than once on a day or the following business day, he or she will be excluded from attending all council and committee meetings for the remainder of that day and for the following business day. If that person continues to come back and get ejected within a certain amount of days, the exclusion can continue to escalate all the way up to six business days.
The new rules are not intended to directly impact the content of a speaker’s words, as was evident at the Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting.
One woman, who is often removed for causing disruptions, unleashed a long line of racial slurs during her comments, which caused some boos and jeers from the audience.
“Folks know, as we read the rules at the beginning, that we cannot, per the United States Constitution, control content,” the committee’s chair, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, told the crowd.
In previous discussions during City Council sessions, members have worried about how to handle disruptions while adhering to open meeting laws, including the Brown Act. The council lost a 2013 federal free speech lawsuit filed by two men who were repeatedly kicked out of council meetings for violating public comment rules.
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