Proposed change to the Humboldt County Code
Title II - Administration
Division 6 - Buildings and Property
Chapter 2.6 - Use of County Property for Constitutionally Protected Activities

SUMMARY of intent:

Members of the public should have the right to reasonably engage in free speech, peaceful assembly and/or petitioning the government at all hours of the day or night, seven days a week on the grounds of County property unless their actions prevent public access to a County building; create an immediate danger to health, safety, or property; or the property is exempted or specifically regulated following a rigorous process defined by the Humboldt County Codes. Absent an action by the Board of Supervisors or an immediate danger to public health, safety, or property any interference by law enforcement personnel, or other members of the public, is improper and a criminal abridgement of civil rights. There is no right to, and there should be no permitting process allowing, the exclusive right to use public grounds.

To provide protection for the Constitutional rights of free speech, peaceful assembly and /or petitioning the government on public lands a new chapter is proposed for the Humboldt County Code.

262.6-1. Purpose.

The Humboldt County Courthouse is the seat of County government and is centrally located one block from Eureka City Hall on one side and the Federal Courthouse on the other. It is reasonable to expect a member of the public to use the Courthouse grounds to communicate with their elected officials and/or other members of the public for the common good through public displays, protests, other expressions of free speech and/or to peacefully assemble with others for such Constitutional activities. This use for Constitutional activity has historically been the case here, and at other County owned properties.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors affirms that members of the public have the right to access and use the County Courthouse grounds and the grounds of other county properties for Constitutional activities. Unless their actions prevent public access to County buildings; create an immediate danger to public health, safety, or property; the property is exempt from usage under 262.6-5 or specifically regulated under 262.6-6; members of the public have the right to reasonably engage in such activities at all hours of the day or night, seven days a week on the grounds of County property.

262.6-2. Disruption of Constitutional Activities

Every person who, without authority of law, or under color of law, willfully disturbs or breaks up any assembly that is not unlawful in its character or unreasonably interferes with the reasonable exercise of Constitutional activities is guilty of a misdemeanor.

262.6-3. Peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors recognizes peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience as a method of speech and petitioning of government and the responsibility to protect the functioning of County government.

(a) Those who choose to use peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience can expect to be arrested and, if necessary, the use of reasonable force to effect that arrest.

(b) And prior to arrest, unless the illegal action prevents access to County property or creates an immediate danger to public health, safety, or property, those who choose to use peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience will be:

(1) contacted by County staff, in person and/or by posting at the site, and provided the opportunity to inform staff of the intent of the illegal activity as civil disobedience and the law, policy, or government action being protested.
(2) allowed to peacefully continue the protest until the Board of Supervisors provide time on a regular agenda to hear the basis of the protest and desired action of government.
(3) given a copy of a written complaint to a law enforcement agency filed pursuant to Board of Supervisors action.
(4) To be afforded all other due process rights.

262.6-4. Process to restrict Constitutional activities on County property

Every exemption of specific County properties or specific regulation of Constitutional activities will be approved and enacted pursuant to Government Code ____, only after all of the following have occurred:

(a) Prior to drafting of exemption or regulation, review by the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission and the Board of Supervisors of the documentation of significant governmental interest provided as justification.

(b) Pre-publication of language containing exemption or regulation on the homepage of the County website, and prominently displayed at the specific property.

(c) Notification to any news organization, civic organization, or individual who has provided contact information for the purpose of being notified related to Constitutional activities on County properties.

(d) At least one public hearing regarding the exemption or regulation to be held by staff at the site, or at the nearest appropriate facility.

(e) There will be a two week notice of any public hearing and all public hearings will be noticed through press releases to all news organizations which have requested notification of meetings and or hearings.

262.6-5. County Property unavailable for Constitutional activities

No county property is exempt pursuant to 262.6-4 and unavailable for Constitutional activities until posted at the site and described here:

(a) Due to the need for emergency access/departures all driveways and marked parking spaces for law enforcement and health facilities are exempt.

(b) To provide secure storage of County Property, areas fenced and used for that purpose are exempt.

262.6-6. County properties with time, place or manner restrictions on Constitutional activities

No specific time, place or manner regulations shall apply to Constitutional activities at any county property pursuant to 262.6-4 until posted at the site and described here:

(a) At the Humboldt County Courthouse, to assure access for Constitutional activities and as other venues are available for commerce and election campaigning, the following restrictions apply:

(1) Money transactions are limited to voluntary donations for charitable or civic purposes.

(2) Activities related to an election are limited to daylight hours, a table with covering, and signs that are handheld or secured to table and/or covering.

(3) Activities to gain access to the ballot, such as signature gathering, are exempt from this section as protected Constitutional activities.