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LL continues to follow up on Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh‘s plans to impose new restrictions on protests at private homes in the wake of alleged intimidation by animal-rights protesters.
He just spoke to John Boardman, a leader with Local 25 of UNITE HERE, a union representing hotel and restaurant employees. He and his union’s membership were key in getting the noise bill heavily amended.
Though neither he nor anyone else has seen the legislation that Cheh plans to introduce next week, he raised some general concerns about restricting protests at private homes. Says Boardman, “I can think personally of any number of times where on any given issue being in front of someone’s house is very powerful.”
For instance, he cited “a landlord who is a slumlord who lives in a mansion in another part of town. Are you saying that tenants living in squalor can’t go to that residence?” He also raised an example from his own experience, when protesters “picketed the house of someone who had a homeworker who hadn’t been paid….There’s nowhere else you can go.”
Boardman noted that if protesters are trespassing or threatening violence, “Those are two violations of law, and…there’s a remedy already prescribed by law. You don’t take away free speech generally because of an issue espoused by a single group.”
“I don’t understand this, I really don’t,” he says. “This is a very sensitive issue for us. The one thing working people have is a voice.”
LL also spoke to Patrick Burke, assistant chief in charge of the D.C. police’s homeland security division.
Burke spoke in general terms about the group whose behavior Cheh is trying to address—-Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. He didn’t have many specifics about the group, other than that they tend to target “specific individuals.” Their protests, he says, happen “sporadically.”
“They’ve got right to be near the object of their protest so they can be seen and heard,” he says. But any clarification regarding the rules for protesting at a residence are welcome, he says.
“The police department always wants to see things in black-and-white, ” Burke says. “The clearer it is for us, the easier it makes out jobs.”