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Sandy considering ban on picketing near a target's home

Published September 24, 2013 3:21 pm

Protests • Ordinance touted as way to balance privacy, free speech rights.
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Pickets in Sandy would have to keep their distance under a proposed ordinance banning them from assembling within 100 feet of the property line of their target's home.

The measure — slated to be discussed Tuesday by the Sandy City Council — says the prohibition will balance residents' right to privacy and freedom from being forced to see or hear unwanted messages while in their homes with the right of protesters to have reasonable access to their intended audience.

Violation of the law would be a class B misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

No vote is scheduled at Tuesday's meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. at Sandy City Hall, 10000 Centennial Parkway. Members will discuss the pros and cons of the ordinance and take action at a later date if a majority wants to do so, according to Sandy spokeswoman Nicole Martin.

The proposal, which is modeled after similar ordinances in Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City, says that Sandy residents have experienced picketing targeted at their homes. One incident was informational picketing in June outside the Sandy residence of PacifiCorp President and CEO Micheal Dunn by union coal miners protesting proposed changes in safety provisions at Deer Creek mine in Emery County.

The county and Salt Lake City passed their targeted residential picketing laws in 2008 after animal-rights protests were held outside the homes of University of Utah researchers. None of those demonstrations took place in Holladay, but that city — which had experienced residential protests previously — also passed an ordinance that year restricting picketing to at least 100 feet away from a home.

The precedent for the laws was set in Frisby v. Shultz, a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a Brookfield, Wis., ordinance banning picketing in front of a residence. The 6-3 decision, which stemmed from a challenge of the law by anti-abortion protesters, said that because the picketing was "speech directed primarily at those who are presumptively unwilling to receive it," the city had a substantial and justifiable interest in banning it.

pmanson@sltrib.comTwitter: @PamelaMansonSLC