The Huntington Beach City Council will on Tuesday consider an ordinance that would prohibit the public from bringing items that could be used as weapons to demonstrations, rallies, protests, picket lines or other public assemblies.
The ordinance would specifically forbid attendees to such events from carrying items such as baseball or softball bats; lengths of lumber, wood or pipe; aerosol sprays, including pepper spray and bear repellent; projectile launchers, balloons and water cannons, glass bottles, open flame torches, shields, or bricks and rocks.
More conventional weapons — like guns or knives — also would be prohibited unless the carrier has a valid government-issued permit or license.
Violations would be considered misdemeanors and punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail.
“Recent history has shown various improvised items have been used to injure attendees and harm or incapacitate law enforcement officers,” states a staff report included in the council agenda.
“There have been an increasing number of demonstrations, protests, rallies, and other public assemblies that have drawn local, state and national attention to a variety of emotionally charged topics,” that report continues. “Orange County and Huntington Beach have had several of these type events. The climate and opportunity for citizens to exercise their freedom of speech, coupled with the use of social media, has led to a surge of public opinion and negative dialogue between groups, which has on occasion led to violence.”
In March 2017, for instance, violence erupted at a Make America Great Again rally at Bolsa Chica State Beach. A protester allegedly doused an event organizer with pepper spray and three people were arrested on suspicion of illegally using a Taser.
The proposed ordinance also would require signs, posters and banners displayed during such events to be made only of soft materials or cardboard no more than a quarter-inch thick. Those signs could still be attached to thin or hollow wood or plastic materials, however.
The ordinance — which would become effective 30 days after adoption — would not apply to participants’ canes or walkers.
Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 2000 Main St.
City to appoint new fire chief
The council also will vote on appointing a new fire chief.
The man up for the Fire Department’s top post is Scott Haberle, who has served as the fire chief for Monterey Park since 2014. Prior to that, he spent 22 years working for the city of Monrovia, where he last served as deputy fire chief.
If hired, Huntington Beach has agreed to pay Haberle an annual salary of $221,124.80, according to his employment agreement.