The Public Safety Committee of Lake Elmo is considering establishing an ordinance for the city that bans targeted protesting and picketing, particularly outside of homes.
Sgt. Tim Harris brought the topic to a Nov. 9 meeting, seeking the approval of the committee on moving the ordinance to the next step, city council.
“We don’t have any specific concerns for the city of Lake Elmo … but this is something just to prepare ourselves for the future,” Harris said.
The city of Hugo — where this past summer Black Lives Matter protesters targeted the home of Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis President Bob Kroll — now has a similar ordinance in place, due to the targeted nature of those protests. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Sen. Warren Limmer, and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman have all had similar protests outside of their homes this year.
Case law in Brookfield, Wisconsin, inspired the wording of the Lake Elmo ordinance. The Brookfield document was challenged in court and “upheld based on the verbiage of that city ordinance,” Harris said.
The intention of the ordinance is not to restrict freedom of speech, but rather to minimize targeted harassment and protect the wellbeing of residents who may be targeted. Harris noted that a single social media post can easily generate mass amounts of people for a protest or picketing event.
“That gets beyond freedom of speech, and (moves) more toward targeted harassment,” Harris said.
The Sunrise Movement, a group that is historically notorious for protesting loudly outside of politicians’ homes while they sleep, has protested outside the homes of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The group has led movements in Minneapolis, Illinois, Michigan, and California and has over 400 “local hubs” throughout the U.S.
Sunrise Movement’s “We Are Wide Awake” campaign is all about disrupting the sleep of politicians and turning their “lives into living nightmares.” The campaign’s website proclaims, “When they do nothing to stop federal agents from snatching us off the streets, when they force us to go back to school in unsafe conditions, when they do nothing to stop our democracy from crumbling, we will shout and sing at their doors from dusk until dawn and make them hear us.”
The ordinance Harris proposed is generalized to include topics and groups across the board, “and it’s very specific to that targeted protest and targeted picketing.” Other cities in Washington County have passed similar ordinances, including Mahtomedi.
The Public Safety Committee of Lake Elmo unanimously approved the move to draft a final ordinance, which will then be brought before the city council for approval.