City Council member Ricardo Arroyo posted a tweet claiming that protestors against the city’s mandates intended to protest outside his home, but ended up at his mother’s home instead. He said that the protestors should be allowed to assemble at City Hall. But he claimed that this group did not intend to protest, accusing them of plans to engage in “targeted harassment.”
Mayor Michelle Wu responded to the post by describing the protestors as “cruel and disgusting.” She demanded that the public leave “moms, families, and neighbors out of it.” The mayor has also complained that protestors have disturbed her neighbors, including someone she described as a 96-year-old veteran.
In a tweet posted in January, Wu described allowing public assemblies to protest city policies as “normalizing hate.” She added that stopping protestors is the only way to “have a chance at healing and building community.”
Wu has used her official platform to complain about the speech used by protestors. She has complained that her son heard someone tell her, “Happy birthday, Hitler” on her birthday.
In response to protests against official policies that made them uncomfortable, city lawmakers have decided to hold a vote on a new mandate. They are considering a measure that will restrict protests outside the residences of public officials to be allowed only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Mayor Wu issued a statement, claiming that the city is committed to the right to protest and the First Amendment, but explaining that it is necessary for the government to “uphold our responsibility” to protect “privacy and the quality of residential life.” She said that the new order would only “augment” existing rules against noise, blocking public rights-of-way and disturbing the peace.
Councilmember Julia Mejia has expressed concern that the new rule could be used in an unequal way against minority activists. She said she is aware of how police have been used in the past to “crackdown disproportionally” on persons of color and members of the LGBTQ community.
Mejia added that she understands the “impulse” behind the ordinance, in that she is a single mother who lives with her entire family. She expressed the need to use caution when there is a danger of being “impulsive with our values” as public servants.
Councilmember Arroyo said that he did not see the proposed ordinance as having a “chilling effect” on the right to speech and assembly. He said people still have “half a day” open to them. It seems like he’s got some skin in the game though; so, it may be tough finding an unbiased view in the city’s government.