Residential picketing ordinance: ‘This is about balancing people’s rights’

Hugo resident Grant Whitaker captured this view of the Aug. 15 protest with a drone.

LINO LAKES — Targeted residential picketing may soon be considered a misdemeanor within the city of Lino Lakes. 

The Lino Lakes City Council held the first reading of an ordinance regulating targeted picketing in residential neighborhoods at its Nov. 9 meeting. The council will hold the second reading at its Nov. 23 meeting. 

The city of Hugo passed a residential picketing ordinance back in September in response to the Black Lives Matter protest that came to town Aug. 15 outside of the home of Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll. 

Director of Public Safety John Swenson said the department was prompted to look into a possible ordinance this summer after it not only responded to the Aug. 15 incident to provide assistance, but also 

received feedback from residents, council members and city staff.  

“We began looking into it, researching it and having discussions about what is the right balance,” Swenson explained. “We took our time and we were very thoughtful. We did a lot of research and had a lot of conversations with people.” 

Swenson said the ordinance is all about balancing people’s rights. “I think we do strike a good balance. By all means we do want to protect people’s right to free speech, and we will provide areas for that to happen, but doing it in front of someone’s home infringes upon their rights to have privacy within their home and to move in and out of their home unrestricted, and the same for their neighbors.” 

Targeted residential picketing is defined in the proposed ordinance as “an activity, including but not limited to marching, standing or patrolling, that is focused on a single residential dwelling without the consent of the dwelling’s occupant(s).” 

The ordinance reads in part, “Targeted residential picketing in front of or about a residential dwelling causes emotional distress to the dwelling occupants, obstructs and interferes with the free use of public rights-of-way and has as its object the harassment of the dwelling occupants.” 

In addition, “The protection and preservation of the home is the keystone of democratic government; the public health and welfare and the good order of the community require that members of the community enjoy, in their homes and dwellings, a feeling of well-being, tranquility and privacy and, when absent from their homes and dwellings, carry with them the sense of security inherent in the assurance that they may return to the enjoyment of their homes and dwellings.”

If the ordinance is adopted, targeted residential picketing would be considered a misdemeanor offense. 

Swenson said the proposed ordinance is similar to White Bear Township’s ordinance, which was challenged in the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 1993. On Aug. 24, 1991, a group of about 20 people were picketing outside of the White Bear Township home of Thomas Webber, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota. Police informed the group that they would be arrested if they continued to picket in front of Webber’s residence and all but one of the protestors dispersed. Minneapolis resident Thomas Strahan refused to leave the area and was ultimately arrested.

The trial court denied Strahan’s motion to dismiss and held that the ordinance was constitutional. 

“We believe this ordinance properly balances the rights of everyone,” Swenson said. 

 

Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or quadnews@presspubs.com.

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