Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Jack Simon
Observer Staff Writer 

SM City Council to Ponder Ban of Items That Can be 'Weaponized' at Protests

Poles, sticks, glass bottles were used as weapons during the May riots in Santa Monica

 

April 13, 2021

Leonard Brophy

Line of SMPD Officers on May 31, 2020, just before the rioters damaged stores in downtown Santa Monica

The Santa Monica City Council will consider at its April 13 meeting an emergency ordinance which would ban certain items that "can be weaponized" at public assemblies and community events.

"There is an increasing concern about violence at public events and about violent clashes at such events between those with opposing views and numerous public protests, demonstrations, and rallies conducted throughout the nation," said city staff in a report.

The report cited the cities of Washington D.C, Charlottesville, St. Louis, Portland, Minneapolis, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oakland, where "violence erupted between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators and violence against law enforcement personnel." Most of the protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last May.

Under the proposed ordinance, the banned items include poles, plastic pipes or wooden sticks unattached to a sign, metal pipes, projectiles like rocks and pieces of concrete, glass bottles, aerosol sprays, shields, chains, and baseball or softball bats. A number of these items were used as weapons last year during the May 31 riots in Santa Monica, according to city officials.

The proposed ordinance "seeks to promote the safety and welfare of those who engage in peaceful, protests, public assemblies, and community events, as well as the safety and welfare of City residents, city businesses, and visitors who are affected by such peaceful protests, public assemblies, and community events," city officials said.

Several cities, including Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, Oakland and Berkeley, have put in place similar ordinances to protect the public safety and welfare, city staff said.

For the past two weeks, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been on trial in Minneapolis, charged with murder in the killing of Floyd on May 25, 2020.

Recently, Santa Monica police assured residents that they are diligently monitoring the events in Minneapolis and the Westside for any leads about protests.

"Currently, I'm pleased to report that thus far, there's been no indication of any threats or other activities specifically focused on our community," said Interim Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks in a video.

Seabrooks outlined how the department is handling the situation. She also mentioned SMPD will continue to provide security for demonstrations and "remains committed to allowing the public to peacefully exercise its constitutional rights of freedom of speech, expression and assembly."

George Floyd protestors in Santa Monica.

In its recommendation to the City Council, staff said the proposed ordinance – which could expire after 120 days – is "presented as an emergency ordinance, to take effect immediately, because of the uncertainty and unpredictability of when one or more individuals may choose to seize the opportunity of an otherwise peaceful protest or public assembly to engage in violent conduct."

Staff report continues: "this ordinance provides a narrowly tailored content-neutral mechanism to reduce the risk of violence at demonstrations, rallies, protests, counter- protests, picket lines, marches, community events, or public assemblies in the City of Santa Monica by, among other things: limiting items (such as wooden sticks, metal and plastic pipes, baseball bats, aerosol sprays, weapons, glass bottles, shields, bricks, and rocks) that can, and have been weaponized at protests, public assemblies, and community events."

 

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