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Atherton resident targeted by protesters asks for more restrictions on picketing

Atherton Police Chief Steve McCulley speaks to the City Council on Jan. 18, 2023 about an ordinance that would limit targeted protests in town. Screenshot.

An Atherton resident who said he was targeted by paid protesters in November and December is asking the City Council to do more than limit picketing within 300 feet of a home and a $1,000 fine for violating the ordinance.

The Carolina Lane resident spoke to the council during a Wednesday, Jan. 18, meeting, asking the town to charge violators with a misdemeanor. Police Chief Steve McCulley said the protesters last year were paid $200 a day for eight hours of protesting outside of the home. The resident said he runs an investment firm and was targeted by the "unhinged" protesters because of a court case involving a relative.

"Until very recently we lived in Atherton peacefully and happily for six and half years," said the resident, who didn't disclose his name. "Someone we don't know sent more than 20 people to threaten and demean us. They came every single day including weekends and holidays. ... It was witness intimidation, mafia style."

It was witness intimidation: mafia style.

-, Carolina Lane resident

The resident lives in town with his wife, who is a student at Stanford University, and their 1-year-old and 4-year-old children. They were forced to leave the home during the protests, which took place during the last two weeks of November and the first two weeks of December, he said.

During the Jan. 18 meeting, the town considered whether to prohibit picketers from coming within 300 feet of the property line in front of a house, violators of which would be subject to fines.

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The protesters did, at times, block driveways and yelled obscenities, McCulley said. Two of the resident's neighbors vouched for the disruptiveness of the protests during the meeting.

McCulley said that there's a "fine line in balancing free speech and a right to be safe in their own homes." He noted that Atherton is unique in that it has narrow streets and no sidewalks.

Police were called out a few times to the protests and they had good communication with the organizer, but the organizer wasn't always truthful, McCulley said.

"These were not typical protesters," he said. The resident noted that the organizer of the protests has targeted others across the country and many of these other cases have ended in violence. The organizer has also made videos threatening his son, the resident said.

Town Attorney Mona Ebrahimi said the town could consider adding a misdemeanor charge to the ordinance but dissuaded council members from requiring permits for protests in town.

"I don't recommend that at all," she said. "It's considered a prior restraint on free speech. ... I don't recommend a blanket rule."

The resident noted that in Los Angeles violators can receive a misdemeanor charge for such violations.

Council member Elizabeth Lewis said she'd also like to see an ordinance with "more teeth."

Town staff will amend the ordinance before it comes back to the City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

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Angela Swartz
 
Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business. Read more >>

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Atherton resident targeted by protesters asks for more restrictions on picketing

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Jan 23, 2023, 1:31 pm

An Atherton resident who said he was targeted by paid protesters in November and December is asking the City Council to do more than limit picketing within 300 feet of a home and a $1,000 fine for violating the ordinance.

The Carolina Lane resident spoke to the council during a Wednesday, Jan. 18, meeting, asking the town to charge violators with a misdemeanor. Police Chief Steve McCulley said the protesters last year were paid $200 a day for eight hours of protesting outside of the home. The resident said he runs an investment firm and was targeted by the "unhinged" protesters because of a court case involving a relative.

"Until very recently we lived in Atherton peacefully and happily for six and half years," said the resident, who didn't disclose his name. "Someone we don't know sent more than 20 people to threaten and demean us. They came every single day including weekends and holidays. ... It was witness intimidation, mafia style."

The resident lives in town with his wife, who is a student at Stanford University, and their 1-year-old and 4-year-old children. They were forced to leave the home during the protests, which took place during the last two weeks of November and the first two weeks of December, he said.

During the Jan. 18 meeting, the town considered whether to prohibit picketers from coming within 300 feet of the property line in front of a house, violators of which would be subject to fines.

The protesters did, at times, block driveways and yelled obscenities, McCulley said. Two of the resident's neighbors vouched for the disruptiveness of the protests during the meeting.

McCulley said that there's a "fine line in balancing free speech and a right to be safe in their own homes." He noted that Atherton is unique in that it has narrow streets and no sidewalks.

Police were called out a few times to the protests and they had good communication with the organizer, but the organizer wasn't always truthful, McCulley said.

"These were not typical protesters," he said. The resident noted that the organizer of the protests has targeted others across the country and many of these other cases have ended in violence. The organizer has also made videos threatening his son, the resident said.

Town Attorney Mona Ebrahimi said the town could consider adding a misdemeanor charge to the ordinance but dissuaded council members from requiring permits for protests in town.

"I don't recommend that at all," she said. "It's considered a prior restraint on free speech. ... I don't recommend a blanket rule."

The resident noted that in Los Angeles violators can receive a misdemeanor charge for such violations.

Council member Elizabeth Lewis said she'd also like to see an ordinance with "more teeth."

Town staff will amend the ordinance before it comes back to the City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Comments

Fight for Democracy
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jan 24, 2023 at 12:36 pm
Fight for Democracy, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2023 at 12:36 pm

This isn't super useful without telling the story of what they were protesting.


Banes
Registered user
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 24, 2023 at 1:24 pm
Banes, Atherton: West of Alameda
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2023 at 1:24 pm

Vigilante organizers is an organized attack. If I were the neighbors I would be up in arms, (and literally armed!) because it’s not just the targeted person it’s the entire neighborhood that gets trespassers and riffraff people who are willing to take $200 to harass another person and obviously have nothing better to do… What kind of people are those? If they’re willing to take $200 to harass somebody they don’t know they’re probably willing to steal their baby too. This is little more than civilized lynching.
If the person did something wrong there is recourse is for that - go to the courthouse and file a lawsuit.
Encouraging uncivilized thug behavior should make the national news for Atherton and the Palo Alto area.
Its. What happens when too much $$$ can buy such services for hire, whats next? Gun slinging duo’s at 12 paces?
Seriously, free speech is one thing, Organized vigilante lynching is another!


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jan 24, 2023 at 1:58 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2023 at 1:58 pm

Banes:

hyperbolic much?


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