People could soon be banned from bringing laser pointers to protests in Los Angeles, after a City Council committee advanced a proposal Tuesday that would create a law to prohibit them at large demonstrations.
The Los Angeles Police Department requested the City Council make the changes to the law that bans certain items at highly populated events after the department reported multiple officers have been injured by them during protests.
“The LAPD works exceptionally hard to protect and facilitate the First Amendment rights of all to peacefully protest and assemble,” LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher told the council’s Public Safety Committee. “However, we have experienced numerous instances of individuals among these groups intentionally using laser devices and pointers to attempt to blind and cause harm to officers by pointing them purposely at their eyes.”
Some people who spoke during the meeting said it was ironic that the LAPD was asking for a laser-pointer ban at protests, as officers have been photographed using bean bag projectiles that have allegedly caused gruesome injuries to some protesters, such as lost eyeballs and teeth.
Other people said police officers need protection during these tense situations and banning laser pointers would help.
“Laser-type devices have no legitimate use outside of the business or educational venues,” Pitcher said.
LAPD Lt. Christopher Zine said Los Angeles has had 20 incidents of laser pointers being used to blind or distract people this year, and not just police officers.
Of 24 total victims, 20 were police officers, some of whom were driving patrol vehicles when lasers were pointed at them, Zine said.
The motion was authored by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, which requests that the City Attorney’s Office draft an ordinance that would ban and define laser pointers for full council consideration.
Los Angeles city law already prohibits certain items at public demonstrations, picket lines and other lawful assemblies, which includes large metal or wooden poles, slingshots, guns, “battle axes,” pepper spray or mace and other items of combat.
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