by Sue Basko
Someone attending an Occupy Los Angeles GA (General Assembly) proposed holding meetings at a Metro Station. At first I thought, that's ludicrous. Then, I looked into it some more and it may not be so ludicrous, even though it will be hard to follow the rules.
Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa promised the Occupy LA folks that a certain staircase area of City Hall would always be available as a free speech forum. Rather than have that be true, the group has been subjected to police interference that inhibits or chills free speech.
I also checked into meeting rooms at public libraries and park districts. These charge a rental fee and require insurance. Also, most of these rooms are too small for a GA, which is open to anyone. So where are large groups supposed to gather, free of charge, for purposes of conducting a free speech meeting?
Holding a GA at the ground level of a Metro Station might be possible, if the station outdoor area is large enough. Read all the rules carefully and see if the place and activity can meet the rules. Proper planning is the key. Bring a measuring tape and the rules and see if you find a station location that meets the distance requirements in Section 6-05-210, which you can see below in the Solicitation section.
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ALL parts of the Metro Code of Conduct apply. It should be read in full by each person before attending or running any such meeting. The specific parts that are most applicable to this proposal are these:
NO LOUD NOISE:
The following acts are prohibited in Metro facilities and vehicles:
Disturbing others by engaging in boisterous or unruly behavior.30
Creating noise, including unnecessary cell phone or other conversation, that is so loud, lengthy, sexually explicit, threatening, violent, or disruptive, that is causes a nuisance or unreasonably interferes with the use, operation, or enjoyment of the Metro facilities or vehicles for Metro representatives or patrons, or creates an unsafe condition, such as distracting operators of Metro vehicles.30
Playing a sound device, except when using headphones or earphones that make the sound inaudible to others unless a permit has been issued for usage of such sound device by Metro.31
Loitering is prohibited in Metro facilities and vehicles.27
Loitering includes the following:
1. Storing personal property in a Metro facility or vehicle.
2. Camping or sleeping in a Metro facility or vehicle when not riding for a transportation purpose.28
3. Remaining in a Metro facility or vehicle without lawful transportation purpose or refusing to provide identification.29
TIME, PLACE AND MANNER RESTRICTIONS ON FIRST AMENDMENT FREE SPEECH ACTIVITY:
A. No person shall solicit money or other things of value in a Metro facility or vehicle.37
B. No person shall solicit public support, or distribute materials, for any cause in Metro vehicles and in underground or non-public areas of Metro facilities where the distribution is disruptive, presents a safety hazard, or impedes the movement of Metro patrons.
C. The exercise of freedom of speech is permitted in Metro facilities and vehicles, subject to the following restrictions:
Activity at a rail station is limited to street level areas and areas which are not platform waiting areas for patrons.
Activity may not occur within fifteen (15) feet of an elevator, escalator, stairwell or staircase entryway, above-ground platform, loading zone, kiosk, transit entrance or exit, emergency exit or telephone, fare vending machine, or fare media readers or validators, or customer service station.
Activity may not impede transit services or the movement of patrons or Metro personnel.
Pamphlets and leaflets may not be left unattended in a Metro facility or vehicle.
The carrying of signs or placards larger than thirty (30") inches by thirty (30") inches, in Metro facilities or vehicles is prohibited. Large signs can be folded or rolled up to comply with the 30" by 30" restriction. No pole, stick, or other similar object or device utilized to display a sign shall exceed a length of thirty inches (30"), nor shall such object exceed a thickness of one-quarter inch (1/4") and a width of two inches (2"); or if not generally rectangular in shape, such object shall not exceed three-quarters inch (3/4") at its thickest dimension. This limitation is not intended to prohibit walking canes, crutches, or similar device used for mobility assistance by a person with a disability. No object shall have an exposed sharp pointed end.
Carrying of any such signs or sticks must not to interfere with the movement, seating, or safety of patrons or Metro personnel.
Food and drinks shall not be distributed in Metro facilities or vehicles except by Metro or persons who obtain a permit from Metro.
8. Tables and portable equipment are prohibited, unless approved by Metro.