Downey establishes buffer zone for protests

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By Arnold Adler

Contributing Writer

DOWNEY — The City Council is expected to take final action at its Nov. 9 meeting on a law requiring a 300-foot buffer for residents protesting or picketing at a private home.

The ordinance also bans mobile picketing in which protesters march along a route or in a circle in front of the targeted dwelling.

Tentative approval came Oct. 26 after Mayor Claudia Frometa supported the law, saying it would not infringe on freedom of speech but would protect families and neighborhoods from harassment when protesters target an elected official at his or her home.

The vote was 4-0 with Councilman Sean Ashton absent.

“The ordinance is modeled after the one by the city of San Jose, which has been upheld as constitutional,” said Frometa in a report to the council.

The city of Los Angeles adopted a similar ordinance in September, Frometa noted.

Frometa served on an ad hoc council subcommittee appointed in May 2020, and told to report back to the full council, but no action was taken on the issue until Oct. 26.

“In recent years an increasing number of demonstrations and protests in the city of Downey and surrounding areas have targeted specific residences,” the ordinance states.

“Those demonstrations and protests have involved individuals congregating on residential sidewalks and within streets and roadways immediately adjacent to a targeted resident and at times on private property of the targeted site, with protesters shouting and chanting at a targeted residence and captive audience therein.

“This particular form of expression inherently and offensively intrudes on residential privacy, disturbs the tranquility of the community members living in the targeted residence, threatens their privacy and can cause them to suffer significant emotional and even physical distress in their own homes.

“The City Council must balance the rights of residents and demonstrators to ensure that both groups’ rights are respected and fulfilled,” the ordinance states.

“Our entire City Council was subject to targeted protests at our residences in late 2019 and 2020,” Frometa said in an email.

“The newly elected council members, Mario Trujillo was not, and neither was council member Catherine Alvarez.

“She was one of the protesters that targeted all the former council members, myself included,” Frometa said.

Alvarez did not respond to requests for comment.

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