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Vista residents Chris and Diane Downey gathered at Cannon Park in Carlsbad to protest President Trump's immigration policies last summer. File photo
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Carlsbad unveils ‘expressive activities’ proposal

On Jan. 30, Carlsbad will host a public forum to receive feedback about a new proposed permit process for groups wanting to engage in “expressive activities.”

The forum is an attempt by the city to remedy any confusion over public demonstrations and obtaining the proper permits.

Last summer, nearly 1,000 people from all over San Diego County rallied to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies of separating families along the U.S.-Mexico border in the “Families Belong Together” march.

Marches were conducted across the country, but the June 30 event in Carlsbad was met with mass confusion and allegations of the city attempting to subvert the protesters’ First Amendment right to assemble and protest.

The city said it was following its own laws by providing notice to the organizers of potential legal actions if the rally became violent.

As such, the City Council scrambled to rectify the issue surrounding the special-use permit required and fast-tracked the issue.

According to summary posted on the city’s website, the new approach creates a stand-alone ordinance specific to expressive activities requiring groups of 75 or more people to obtain the permit.

The forum will run from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Faraday Center, 1635 Faraday Ave.

“From my perspective, it’s all about the voice of the community and making sure everyone has an opportunity to weigh in on the future policies and procedures we may adopt,” Mayor Matt Hall said. “I have met with a few members of the community to listen to what their concerns are and to try and make sure as we move forward, those concerns are met.”

Currently, expressive activities on city property are covered under the city’s special events ordinance requiring groups of more than 50 people to obtain a special events permit.

A permit would be required for expressive activities using city property, such as public parks, beaches, streets and sidewalks if the participants do not follow traffic laws. 

Groups would need to submit an application for a permit at least three business days before the planned activity.

Under the currently permit process, groups of 50 or more must apply 90 days prior to an event. Applicants would not be required to notify those living and working in the surrounding area.

“What I heard was many members of the community wanted an opportunity on as much as a moment’s notice to be able to come out and gather and express themselves on whatever the issue may or may not be,” Hall said. “There are many people in the community who view things from different perspectives, and that everyone gets a chance to be heard and our outcome is balanced.”

With the new process, applicants would also need to purchase insurance coverage for the event, which could be available through the city’s insurance provider.

The applicant would pay the insurance premium. A risk assessment calculating the size and nature of the activity would determine the amount owed by the insurance provider.

In addition, the new proposal does not require several items including a charge for use of parks, for the applicant to reimburse the city for police and fire response costs, neighbor notification or for the applicant to pay for any loss to the city resulting from expressive activity.

“The right to engage in expressive activities is protected by the federal and state constitutions,” the city statement read. “However, local governments may put reasonable restrictions on these activities to protect public health and safety and ensure effective management of city facilities. The new permit process would cover activities meant to convey an opinion, views or ideas, such as a protest or distributing literature.”