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Sandy sets limits on protests in front of homes

Published September 25, 2013 10:54 am

Ordinance • Pickets must stay 100 feet from property.
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Sandy • City Council members on Tuesday adopted an ordinance that bans pickets from assembling within 100 feet of the property line of their target's home.

The decision came after Sandy resident Krista Dunn, the wife of PacifiCorp President and CEO Micheal Dunn, said that the couple's home had been the site of at least a dozen protests. She said the pickets had frightened her and tried to block her car on two occasions.

"It has had a tremendous impact on my children," Krista Dunn added. "How would you feel about being harassed and targeted while sitting in your own home?"

Micheal Dunn said pickets have not demonstrated at his office or at the home of other company officials who live in communities with laws requiring them to stay 100 feet from residences.

The vote to approve the ordinance was 4-2, with council members Steve Fairbanks and Kristin Coleman-Nicholl dissenting. The two expressed concern that the law would merely move the protesters in front of someone else's home, and Fairbanks suggested that other laws be enforced against demonstrators who harass their targets.

Fairbanks urged the council to delay a decision until Councilman Stephen Smith, who had been excused from the meeting, could be present. However, Councilman Dennis Tenney said the issue needed to be dealt with immediately.

"It's a form of harassment that's patently wrong," he said of some of the protests.

The ordinance will go into effect in about a week to 10 days, after the city officially publishes a summary of it. Violation of the law will be a class B misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

A similar ordinance is in place in other Utah jurisdictions, including Salt Lake City, Holladay and Salt Lake County, where residents have been targeted by pickets outside their homes. In June, union coal miners protesting proposed changes in safety provisions at Deer Creek mine in Emery County held an informational picket outside the Dunn residence.

The precedent for the ordinances was set in Frisby v. Shultz, a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a Brookfield, Wis., ordinance banning picketing in front of a residence. The 6-3 decision, which stemmed from a challenge of the law by anti-abortion protesters, said that because the picketing was "speech directed primarily at those who are presumptively unwilling to receive it," the city had a substantial and justifiable interest in banning it.


Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC




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