City Attorney Carmen Trutanich joined us on AirTalk Monday morning to explain his office’s new policy about prosecuting protestors who block traffic without a permit and who refuse an order to move to the sidewalk.
Though there have been several protests likely to garner misdemeanor charges of up to a year in jail, the highest profile was one last year in support of the Dream Act. The protestors, without permit, blocked traffic on Wilshire Boulevard in front of the Federal Building in Westwood. After refusing to disperse, the protestors were arrested.
Some of our listeners thought the threat of jail time was way too severe for a political protest, regardless of the event’s illegality and inconvenience to others. Those listeners argued that it’s part of a democracy to tolerate such disruptions for the greater good of allowing high profile dissent.
Others praised Trutanich for his policy and thought it appropriate for protestors who could’ve made their points on the sidewalk to face jail for inflicting their actions on folks who just wanted to get where they’re going. Trutanich told us that the Federal Building protest caused ambulances and an organ being transported to UCLA Medical Center to be delayed, potentially endangering lives.
Is it fair to hold protestors to either permitted street demonstrations or spontaneous protests out of the public right-of-way? Should anyone, ever, have to serve jail time for taking part in a protest? Does the nature of the cause matter – for example, Dream Act okay, but protest to get people to join a religious movement not okay?