The LAPD is Arresting Residents for Speaking 20 Seconds over Allotted Time at City Meetings

Apparently the LAPD has made it a custom to arrest residents who speak more than their allotted time at city meetings. Now these imposed time limits already restrict a person’s speech as it is but this practice by police will severely hinder the right of citizens to criticize their elected officials. Surely the city wouldn’t back such a blatant disregard to people’s rights. Los Angeles is doing just that.

L.A. has proposed a new ordinance making it “an arrestable offense to violate any posted rules of public facilities” ultimately giving police officers carte blanche when it comes to making criminal trespass charges while restricting speech and shutting down criticism at public meetings. Residents who don’t agree with the modus operandi and speak with harsh criticisms about police will find it harder to voice their opinions should the ordinance pass.

The ACLU of Southern California is pushing back on the ordinance with the understanding that its passing would be a slippery descent into totalitarianism. The ACLU tweeted:

LAPD is arresting people for speaking 20 secs over their time at public hearings. They want a new law that allows them to criminalize these people for exercising their civic duties. Take action to oppose this draconian measure. https://t.co/MuALQYcKvB pic.twitter.com/5bMfHhkKyU

The “call to action” came after an ACLU staff attorney, Melanie Ochoa, sent a  letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles city councilmembers calling on them to reject the ordinance. Ochoa argued that the ordinance, although styled as a public safety ordinance, would do nothing for public safety. Ochoa’s letter cited two instances where residents were removed from meetings at the Board of Police Commissioners.

“Part of the duty of public officials is to bear the brunt of the public’s displeasure as well as expressions of gratitude and satisfaction. City Council’s irritation is not a public safety threat, and the serious consequences of criminal law should be limited to conduct that actually poses a risk to the safety of others.”

cops-800x430In the first instance, 81-year-old Tut Hayes was speaking at a city meeting in 2016 when he was forcibly removed by police. In a video posted by PM Beers onlookers are heard yelling at police to let him go.

In light of the ACLU’s call to action, professor and Black Lives Matter organizer, Melina Abdullah, tweeted:

Mr. Hayes was dragged and arrested at 82 years old for allegedly speaking off topic. New ordinance would make this treatment new norm. https://t.co/G2uYOj1kay

Abdullah has experience being thrown out of meetings. She has been thrown out of her share of Board of Police Commissioners meetings. In May 2016, an LAPD spokesman said she “was removed from the room by officers and later arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest.” The ACLU rebuffed stating she “was arrested for speaking 20 seconds over the 2-minute public comment limit.”

Abdullah tweeted after that incident:

What did I do to get arrested out of LA Police Commission this morning? Same as the 4 other activists arrested b4 me this yr. Speak. @BLMLA

Both Hayes and Abdullah have avoided the filing of charges in connection to their removal and subsequent arrests but according to the ACLU’s letter the new ordinance would change that. The letter states, “Neither was ultimately charged with a crime, because they had violated no law. This ordinance seeks to change that.”

Abdullah, along with several other community members, was arrested this August during a meeting on the shooting of Carnell Snell Jr. They were subsequently released.

ABC 7’s Marc Cota-Robles tweeted:

4 activists handcuffed after failing to disperse police commission meeting during 2nd unlawful assembly @DocMellyMel among those in custody. pic.twitter.com/Jfhc8ZYQar

Ochoa’s letter further states that law enforcement would be able to selective in their enforcement of the new ordinance based upon the content of the public remarks. The ACLU also raised concerns about the potential overreach of the ordinance, going into the use of public spaces, library resources and the use of discriminatory policing tactics.

Should the city pass this ordinance?

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