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Capitola Amends Public Space Ordinance Following War Protests

Capitola Amends Public Space Ordinance Following War Protests

by Michael Thomas

Following gatherings of anti-war protestors near the Capitola Mall that ended in numerous arrests, the Capitola City Council revised a City ordinance to strengthen laws against blocking public sidewalks.

As protestors rallied in front of military recruiting offices on 41st Avenue, a counter-protestor created a strange spectacle on a sidewalk across the street. The man, accompanied by a dog tethered to the Kentucky Fried Chicken sign, posted a banner reading: "Don't mislead our kids" on a utility box and proceeded to unload a van full of personal possessions onto the sidewalk.

Capitola Police officers received complaints from nearby businesses and warned the individual about obstructing the sidewalk, but no law was found that prohibited his activity. He remained at the spot with his belongings for over two days.

In response, the City drafted an amended ordinance to prohibit "placing obstructions in any right-of-way."

Although the City's report stated that the intention was to alleviate "problems of encroaching on City property by protestors or any other person," Council Member Dennis Norton opposed the ordinance on the grounds that it could place unnecessary restrictions on Capitola homeowners.

"If you have vegetation or a fence that is in the way, the City can come and ask you to remove it," Norton said.

"We've become so reactionary," he added. "We have one instance and we write an ordinance for it. We are a City of laws and ordinances as it is."

But Council member Stephanie Harlan said the change fills a gap in the City's codes, and that organized public protest remains possible.

"People can certainly still gather and use the public space," she said.


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