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Skid Row Protestors Seek to Throw Out California Code from 1872

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011, at 08:15AM
Skid Row Walk Eric Richardson [Flickr]

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich talks with Senior Lead Officer Dion Joseph during the September 2009 Skid Row Neighborhood Walk.

A Skid Row activist arrested earlier this year while protesting the Central City East Association's monthly neighborhood walk is going to court to challenge a California code that has been on the books since 1872.

Pete White, a co-director of the L.A. Community Action Network (LA CAN), and other Skid Row activists have been protesting the walk since March, charging that it promotes the criminalization of homelessness and poverty and is comprised only of those from outside the community. At the May walk attended by blogdowntown, the activists followed the walkers around chanting derogatory messages that was directed toward Councilwoman Jan Perry and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, both of which were present.

During the July 6 walk, LAPD Lt. Shannon Paulson arrested White under California Penal Code section 403, which makes it a misdemeanor to disrupt a public meeting or assembly that is not religious or political. The code section was enacted in 1872, and has been unchanged ever since.

A lawsuit filed on White's behalf by the Law Office of Carol A. Sobel seeks to have that section throw out as an unconstitutional content-based restriction on free speech. The case was filed in U.S. District Court on July 29.

White and other protestors were out again at the August 3 walk. This time, White says his arrest was threatened under Penal Code section 415, "disturbing the peace."

At an October 3 hearing, Sobel will attempt to get an injunction issued that would forbid the city from citing section 403 for arrests.

The Central City East Association has led the monthly Skid Row Neighborhood Watch Walk since 2005, inviting neighbors and elected officials to join service providers and LAPD in walking the Skid Row area and understanding the issues it faces.

The next walk will take place on Wednesday, September 7.

Initial Filing from July 29

August 22 Filing in Support of Injunction

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