L.A. Council bans homeless encampments near schools after another disruption

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Splatters of blood dotted the left aisle of Los Angeles City Council chamber this afternoon, a remnant from another raucous meeting that started with protesters voicing displeasure at an ordinance to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers and ended with one arrest, three injured police officers and a final vote to approve the measure.

The council voted 11-3 in favor of the measure on the third and final time that it came up for a vote, with Council Members Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Nithya Raman dissenting.

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“We cannot accept that as a regular way to conduct ourselves,” Council President Nury Martinez said. “I think for those of us who have been with us a number of years, I've never witnessed anything like this.”

As they did last week, opponents interrupted the meeting with chants and shouts in the council chamber.

But on Tuesday, during public comment, a woman attempted to climb over the barrier separating the council from members of the public. While police attempted to take the woman into custody, a man tried to prevent officers from arresting her -- he was in turn arrested on suspicion of vandalism and resisting arrest. The woman was not taken into custody, according to Capt. Elaine Morales of the Los Angeles Police Department, who added that the woman was pulled away from police by other protesters.

Three officers, including a sergeant, suffered minor injuries, Morales said.

Martinez then called for a 20-minute recess. Police with riot gear circled the chamber while protesters chanted and made speeches until police issued a dispersal order. The council finished the meeting with only members of the media present.

“Jumping over a barrier and putting other peoples' lives at risk, that cannot be the norm around here,” Martinez said. “We cannot legislate in fear. I certainly will not do that. But we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior and continue to disregard decorum here in our council chambers and our safety.”

The council initially voted 10-1 in favor of the ordinance last month, with Bonin dissenting. Since that initial vote was not unanimous, a second vote was taken last week. Ordinarily, the second vote would mark final approval of the ordinance -- however, due to a procedural issue involving the motion that was approved last week, the matter returned for one more vote, city officials said.

The new amendment is a blanket ban on encampments within 500 feet of all schools.

Councilman Joe Buscaino originally proposed the idea last year, and it failed to gain traction. But the issue was revived earlier this year, in part at the urging of Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who said teachers, principals and parents have expressed concerns about homeless encampments near campuses.

“I’ve seen elementary schools with conditions that none of us as parents would find acceptable for children. Individuals with mental illness, some of them absolutely unclothed, shouting profanities in the listening ear of children,'' Carvalho told the council previously.

People who violate the ordinance face an infraction or citation, but “a person who willfully resists, delays or obstructs a city employee from enforcing this section or who willfully refuses to comply after being requested to do so by an authorized city employee” can face higher fines and a misdemeanor charge, according to the ordinance.

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