L.A. Approves New Rules for City Council Meetings. Are They Legal?

L.A.’s infamous gadflies better shape up or ship out. That’s the implicit warning from Los Angeles city leaders who voted Tuesday to implement new rules governing behavior at city council meetings.

The vote was 14-0 with Councilman Mike Bonin absent. He refused to say how he would have voted if he had been present.

As City News discussed last month, attendees who repeatedly disrupt meetings could be booted for up to six days under the new rules which take effect in January. They were approved despite fierce opposition from the ACLU, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, the Los Angeles Community Action Network and a number of legal experts.

This is not the first time Los Angeles has tried to crack down on City Hall disruptors. It has been successfully sued in the past after trying to enforce comportment standards. The city has already said it expects a legal challenge over the latest rule change.

Ironically, the Council was forced to remove a protester who had come to city chambers Tuesday to voice opposition to the plan. Council President Herb Wesson had repeatedly warned activist Jamie Garcia that she was being disruptive before asking police to have her removed.

Garcia and other civil rights organizations argue that what the City Council is doing amounts to a stifling of free speech. They say many of the behaviors that are considered to be “disruptive” aren’t unreasonable at all and that their concerns about civility are really a veil for silencing critics.

On the other hand, city officials have rightly worried about their safety at City Council meetings for some time. Emotional outbursts and profanity have also discouraged some members of the public from attending meetings and engaging with their representatives.

Read more about the new rules and some of the legal questions they raise here