The National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles (NLG-LA) has strong concerns about a recent article in the Los Angeles Times entitled, “California aims to shut up bullies and other bad actors so democracy can thrive.” We believe that framing concerned community members and protestors as “bullies and bad actors” who threaten democracy is both unnecessarily inflammatory and recklessly irresponsible. As the most prominent newspaper serving the Los Angeles area, the LA Times has an enhanced duty to report the news fairly and factually. The LA Times has egregiously failed its readership in its depiction of Senate Bill 1100 and its inaccurate and unfair depiction of protestors.
The right to protest is fundamental to democracy in the United States and the right to redress our grievances with our elected officials is woven into the fabric of this country. It is our duty as citizens to hold government officials accountable for their actions or misdeeds. The enactment of Senate Bill 1100 however, is a chilling reminder of the continuous attempts by the State to redefine that duty.
In a city where leadership responds to an average of five unhoused people dying every day and our police department shooting at 25 people so far this year by expanding the criminalization of homelessness and increasing the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget, Angelenos have every reason to speak up and demand better from City Council and the Mayor. The true spirit of democracy calls for actual input from impacted community members. Instead, public comment at LA City Council meetings is policed by LAPD officers in riot gear, ruled by leadership that refuses to allow certain members of the public to speak, and ignored by our elected officials. Protesters are criminalized and shamed for demanding better for our city. City and state leadership, and now the LA Times, are working hard to hamper the ability of community members to speak out against injustice and hold their elected officials accountable. The state legislature and the media should address the suppression of free speech, not making laws further restricting it and then demonizing those seeking to exercise it.
“In an era where our democracy is actually under attack, it is reckless for the Los Angeles Times to frame those who wish to address their elected officials as threats to democracy,” notes NLG-LA Executive Director Christopher Chavis, “we should be working together to enhance free speech rights and not centralizing the power to suppress it.”