The city of Los Angeles may ban protesters from carrying pepper spray, tasers and improvised shields.
The LA City Council asked city attorneys last week to draft a new law that will ban certain items during public demonstrations, a list of which will be approved by the LA Police Department. The city is looking to ban items that could be used as blunt weapons, such as bricks, stones, crowbars, hammers and metal signs.
Councilmember Mitch Englander pitched the idea to the city council because public demonstrations have recently turned violent across the country, according to the Los Angeles Times.
UCPD Lt. Kevin Kilgore said he thinks protests can get out of hand when verbal arguments and insults thrown by protesters escalate to physical attacks.
“Any of those (banned items) could be used as a weapon … and some of them could even be used as a deadly weapon,” he said. “We don’t want those things to be a factor when that happens, because as we’ve seen in the country of late, people feel very strongly and very passionately about what they believe in.”
Kilgore said law enforcement is responsible for protesters’ safety and said he thinks violent protests do not accomplish anything because individuals are not listening to each other.
However, some student leaders said they think the proposal would be unfair to students and residents who engage in protest.
Chloe Pan, undergraduate student government external vice president, said she thinks the proposal is well-intentioned and believes it is important to enforce public safety. However, she said she thinks protests only become violent when protesters are provoked by bystanders.
Pan said she thinks students and residents sometimes feel unsafe when protesting, and added she thinks the ban will only make them feel more unsafe when they cannot use certain items to protect themselves. She said she thinks the proposal is more geared toward protecting bystanders than the protesters themselves.
“I definitely think (the policy) leads to an increased criminalization of protesters,” she said.
Tala Deloria, an organizer for Refuse Fascism UCLA, a group that opposes President Donald Trump’s administration, said she thinks local laws discourage students and residents from protesting. For example, police officers were able to use pepper spray in recent Berkeley protests, Deloria said.
The Berkeley City Council voted to let police use pepper spray against violent protesters when high-profile political speakers like Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos were scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley as part of the campus’ Free Speech Week in September, the Daily Californian reported. The city also banned students and residents from using pepper spray in several parks near campus.
Deloria said she thinks these controversial speakers are instigating violence among students, and believes the new policy would prevent students from protecting themselves.