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It could soon be illegal to interrupt an Olympia City Council meeting

UPDATED: Tue., July 18, 2017, 8:36 p.m.

The Olympia City Council will consider an ordinance tonight that would make it unlawful to interfere with or disturb a city meeting.

The proposed ordinance comes eight months after the council opted to move its Dec. 7, 2016 meeting due to a disturbance caused by anti-fracking protesters. On June 6 of last year, Olympia officials canceled a Downtown Strategy meeting that was interrupted by people protesting gentrification. That incident ended in a physical altercation between a 20-year-old man and a 71-year-old man.

Police were called, but no one wanted to press charges.

These meetings left city staff, elected officials and residents feeling unsafe, said Kellie Purce Braseth, a city spokeswoman. The interruptions also stalled city business.

The proposal would make it a misdemeanor to interrupt or disrupt a city meeting. If the ordinance passes, a person would be guilty of interference with a city meeting if he or she, alone or in a group, “knowingly and unreasonably disturbs, disrupts or interferes with any city meeting in a city location.”

Interruptive behavior includes:

Engaging in violent, tumultuous, intimidating or threatening behavior.

Using abusive or obscene language.

Continuous or repeatedly yelling, shouting or making unreasonable noise.

Perfoming any other act which unreasonably disturbs, disrupts or interferes with a city meeting.

Refusing to comply with a lawful order to leave a city location after having being given such an order by police, mayor, council members, staff, or volunteers who are presiding over a city meeting.

Braseth said Tuesday afternoon that she was unsure whether a large group of people would attend the meeting in response to the proposal. Olympia City Council meetings take place on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at Olympia City Hall.


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