Politics

LA City Council moves to silence disruptive audience members

File: Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th district, speaks at an L.A. City Council meeting.
File: Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th district, speaks at an L.A. City Council meeting.
Courtesy of Paul Koretz

Anyone who interrupts L.A. City Hall meetings could soon be cited for criminal trespassing. A motion passed by the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday instructs the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would charge disruptive speakers, or "gadflies,"with criminal trespassing — a misdemeanor crime under California law.

People who sit in the audience, wave around their hands and talk beyond their allotted time have always been around, former Center for Governmental Studies president Bob Stern told KPCC. Lately, they've crossed the line, according to Stern — some speakers during public comment time have made white supremacist comments and used white supremacist imagery during their interruptions.

One of the city's comment cards exhibiting the disruptive behavior was presented at Wednesday's meeting. It read, "F--- You Herman," and listed "66666black Sabbath" under "Representing," according to documents on the City Council's website.

"Clearly people should be encouraged to express their opinions at council meetings, but they have to follow the rules and they can't disrupt the meetings, and they have to let the Council get on with their business," Stern said.  

It is unlikely any free speech legal challenges would prevail for those who are truly disrupting business, Stern said.

Councilman Mitch Englander told KPCC it will be up to the police to decide whether a person gets cited for trespassing.