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Newport Beach acts to curb protests directly in front of homes

August 14, 2013|By Jill Cowan

The Newport Beach City Council voted Tuesday to move ahead with an ordinance that would create a 300-foot "buffer zone" to keep pickets away from a targeted individual's home.

The 6-0 decision followed a recent nighttime demonstration during which abortion protesters targeted the residence of a doctor, writing slurs in chalk in front of the house and generally frightening residents.

While council members said they understood the need to protect free speech, they felt that the rule would ensure that residents could find peace and privacy in their homes.

"I was concerned about the neighbors," said Councilwoman Nancy Gardner. "I do think it's important that our homes be our sanctuary."

Frequent council critic Jim Mosher said the city could be toeing a very fine legal line, and that the ordinance seemed unnecessary given that police probably have a "whole briefcase of laws" on their side should a protest became a nuisance.

"It sounded simple, but it is a difficult issue, balancing the right to free speech ... with a right to privacy," he said.

According to a city staff report, the ordinance is based on similar laws in other cities that have stood up to legal challenges.

Cowan writes for Times Community News.

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Jill.cowan@latimes.com

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