Despite weeks of condemnation from the public, the Los Angeles City Council approved Tuesday new rules for public speakers at City Council and committee meetings.
The unanimous approval now enables City Council to set cumulative penalties for disrupting city meetings. If removed from two meetings within two business days, an offender could see themselves barred from attending further meetings the following day and placed on a short probationary period. Get yourself expelled during that probationary period, and the ban rises to three days, then six if disruptions continue.
Members of the public were not pleased with the adoption of the new rules, with some threatening to disrupt the meeting itself. Several speakers went over their allotted time, while others began chanting after they had spoken.
“I realize that your sensitivities, your egos, are what’s really driving this motion,” Jamie Garcia with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition said. “Get past your egos and realize that communities stand up for themselves.”
Other speakers took the motion personally, with some calling out Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Herb Wesson in particular. These critics alleged that as people of color, Wesson and Harris-Dawson should be more sensitive to the sacrifices made by people of color in the name of free speech.
“People before [you] laid down their lives,” speaker Hamid Khan said. “Kicking people out, is criminalization of protest.”
City Council touted the new rules as a way to crack down on speakers who use their public speech to air sexist, racist and otherwise hateful rhetoric. However, concerns over potential lawsuits and the legality of such rule changes have been carefully weighed by City Council.
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.
Members of the public have already threatened to file lawsuits over the new rules.