The Olympia City Council will consider an ordinance tonight that would make it unlawful to interfere with or disturb a city meeting.
The proposed ordinance comes eight months after the council opted to move its Dec. 7, 2016 meeting due to a disturbance caused by anti-fracking protesters. On June 6 of last year, Olympia officials canceled a Downtown Strategy meeting that was interrupted by people protesting gentrification. That incident ended in a physical altercation between a 20-year-old man and a 71-year-old man.
Police were called, but no one wanted to press charges.
These meetings left city staff, elected officials and residents feeling unsafe, said Kellie Purce Braseth, a city spokeswoman. The interruptions also stalled city business.
The proposal would make it a misdemeanor to interrupt or disrupt a city meeting. If the ordinance passes, a person would be guilty of interference with a city meeting if he or she, alone or in a group, “knowingly and unreasonably disturbs, disrupts or interferes with ant city meeting in a city location.”
Interruptive behavior includes:
- Engaging in violent, tumultuous, intimidating or threatening behavior
- Using abusive or obscene language
- Continuous or repeatedly yelling, shouting or making unreasonable noise
- Perfomaning any other act which unreasonably disturbs, disrupts or interferes with a city meeting
- Refusing to comply with a lawful order to leave a city location after having being given such an order by police, mayor, council members, staff, or volunteers who are presiding over a city meeting
Braseth said Tuesday afternoon that she was unsure whether a large group of people would attend the meeting in response to the proposal. Olympia City Council meetings take place on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at Olympia City Hall.