The agenda for the Feb. 8, 2011 Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting includes an amendment to Ordinance 884 that would allow a targeted residential protest within 3 feet of the property line instead of 30.
Supervisor Stone proposing revisions to anti-picketing measure he helped create
Posted By jose.arballo On February 7, 2011 @ 7:02 pm
An anti-picketing measure approved by Riverside County supervisors in the face of heated criticism nearly two years ago is expected to be largely undone tomorrow — at the request of the very supervisor who wanted it in the first place.
On a 4-1 vote in late February 2009, the Board of Supervisors implemented Ordinance 884, which prohibited “targeted residential picketing” closer than 30 feet from a person’s residence. Then-board Chairman Jeff Stone introduced the measure, arguing that it was necessary to protect people from harassment while in the comfort of their home.
Supervisor Bob Buster was the sole dissenter, saying the new law was unnecessary and imposed restrictions on people’s ability to exercise their constitutional right to peaceably assemble and protest.
Now Stone is proposing to shorten the prohibited distance from 30 feet to three feet from a targeted residence’s property line.
“The reduction will better protect the public’s First Amendment rights, while still maintaining the privacy interest of residential occupants and the ability of law enforcement to preserve order,” the supervisor wrote in his amendment proposal.
It’s unclear whether the anti-picketing measure has ever been enforced. A sheriff’s department report in September 2009 indicated there had been no instances in which it was applied.
From the beginning, Stone’s proposal was blasted by two county residents — Lirra Bishop of Perris and Julie Waltz of Norco — as well as members of the anti-Scientology group Anonymous.
Bishop and Waltz have made repeated appearances before the board, denouncing Ordinance 884 as an affront to freedom and raising questions about how and why it was conceived.
Stone cited instances of harassment of Church of Scientology members at their 700-acre Golden Era compound near Hemet as the impetus for the ordinance, as well as threats against supporters of Proposition 8, which confers legal recognition of marriage between only a man and woman in California.
The supervisor has received political campaign contributions from church attorney Sam Alhadeff.
During his push to have the ordinance enacted, Stone characterized members of Anonymous as militant hate-mongers who passed around racist literature and other provocative materials online. However, members of the group, who come from all walks of life, argued Stone was relying on propaganda supplied by church officials.
Anonymous activists demonstrate outside the Golden Era compound regularly, calling attention to what they allege are human rights violations by the church. None of the demonstrations have been violent.
Stone said the language of the ordinance, which was modeled on targeted picketing restrictions in the cities of Riverside and San Diego, as well as San Diego County, had passed muster with the United States Supreme Court.