People attending future rallies or demonstrations in Laguna Beach should think twice about bringing certain items with them in plain view, such as soda cans, pepper spray or signs affixed to wooden sticks.
The Laguna Beach City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that prohibits attendees or participants in public demonstrations, protests or rallies at city beaches and parks from carrying certain items Laguna police consider weapons, or items that could be used as weapons.
The list of prohibited items includes knives, baseball bats, metal pipes, glass bottles, spray paint bottles and firearms. The ordinance took effect immediately.
Police Chief Laura Farinella proposed the ordinance following an Aug. 20 anti-immigration rally in Laguna, and other protests across the country, including some that turned violent.
Laguna police arrested four people, including one man who allegedly carried a knife to last month’s rally.
“I want to protect free speech, but I don’t feel that when you carry weapons along with it that that constitutes free speech,” Councilman Steve Dicterow said. “The items you have here are all reasonable things to restrict. You don’t have a right to have those things at any public rally. I would rather err on the side of safety when it’s not inhibiting free speech.”
Councilman Bob Whalen asked Farinella if police could enforce the ordinance if demonstrators spilled onto streets and sidewalks.
Farinella said that if officers see people walking from their cars and carrying any of the aforementioned items to a demonstration, officers will tell them to return the items to the car.
“We’ll ask for compliance first and take [additional] steps as necessary," Farinella said.
On the suggestion of resident Hillary Cole, the council directed staff to edit the ordinance to include biohazards in all containers instead of only in balloons as written in the original version.
“If someone is carrying urine or feces, it does not matter if it’s in a balloon or a cup or a bottle or what,” Cole said. “They have it for a reason which is not to go their nearest doctor. I disagree with removing all stakes and flagpoles. People should be allowed to hold up their signs and profess what it is they want to say."