Santa Monica mayor kicks activist out of council meeting for alleged disruptive behavior

The Santa Monica mayor asked the police to remove an activist from the city council meeting after he refused to put down a sign saying the city had committed human rights violations. -db

The Lookout News
October 14, 2010
By Jonathan Friedman

The City Council Chambers were briefly evacuated at Tuesday night’s council meeting while police officers removed activist Pro Se from the room. Mayor Bobby Shriver ordered the removal because Se refused to put down a large sign that accused the City of human rights violations. Shriver said the sign was obstructing City TV cameras from capturing other public speakers.

Se, who is confined to a wheelchair and is a frequent critic of City officials, said he was being “defiant” because of a new council rule that prohibits people from speaking on agenda items prior to when they come up for council discussion. Previously, those with disabilities were allowed to speak on any agenda item at the beginning of the meeting. With the new rule, those who must leave early can submit their comments in writing.

At this week’s meeting, Se accused the council of violating the Brown Act, the state law on open meeting requirements for local governments. He said he was speaking “out of defiance for your failure to provide fair and reasonable accommodations for me to speak early as well as other disabled people who have notes from their doctors.”

Following his comments he moved to a location a few feet in front of the council dais while holding a large sign. Se said in an interview after the meeting that the sign lists five major human rights violations by City officials.

After Se remained there for several minutes while other members of the public spoke, Shriver said he was told by City TV that the sign was blocking the speakers. He asked Se to take down the sign. Se refused, and said, “That’s a lie.”

A brief break was taken while Assistant City Attorney Joseph Lawrence advised the council on the matter. Following the break, Shriver said, “Pursuant to advice from counsel, the presiding officer has to formally ask you to stop doing the disruptive conduct. So will you please take your sign down?” Se said he would not.

Shriver then ordered the police officers to remove Se from the room, and he also ordered everybody else at the meeting to briefly clear the chambers.

Se said on Wednesday that after he was removed by police officers, they prevented him from returning to the chambers. He said he plans to file two lawsuits against the City, one for the alleged Brown Act violation and one seeking $10 million regarding injuries he said he suffered at the previous council meeting.

At that meeting, Se also positioned himself a few feet in front of the council dais (without the sign) after making comments blasting the council about the rule regarding public speakers. He stayed there for the remainder of the meeting in what he called an “act of defiance.”

Se later filed a $10 million claim against the City for discrimination, alleging his “act of defiance” caused injury to his spine and arm. He said in an interview on Wednesday that he expects the claim to be rejected. After that, he will file a suit.

When asked about what he plans to do at the next meeting, Se said, “I’m going to keep being defiant and turn things up a notch.”

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