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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/fastlizard4

Attending a protest in L.A.? Just make sure you don’t have a laser pointer.

Los Angeles has amended its municipal code to ban the possession of laser pointers at protests.

Michael Juliano
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Michael Juliano
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We’d say there’s a non-zero chance that Angelenos could end up assembling in the streets in the near future judging by the boarded up windows all over town. So with that in mind, it might be helpful to know that as of today, November 3—you know, Election Day—it’s now illegal to bring a laser pointer to a protest in the City of Los Angeles.

Under a new ordinance that the L.A. City Council unanimously approved last week, laser pointers join firearms, knives, bricks and torches on a list of items banned at public demonstrations, rallies, protests, picket lines and public assemblies. Under the city’s municipal code, possession of a laser pointer—that means simply carrying a laser pointer on you, not necessarily using one—at such events is now a misdemeanor.

The California penal code already says that it’s a misdemeanor—punishable by imprisonment for up to 30 days—to aim a laser pointer at another person “in a threatening manner with the specific intent to cause a reasonable person fear of bodily harm.”

Councilmember Monica Rodriguez pitched the local order as a preventative public safety measure in her initial motion, which mentions that laser pointers can cause severe retinal damage if shone into someone’s eyes. She also notes that there have been 11 reported incidents in L.A. since the beginning of the year in which an individual was targeted with a laser pointer; eight of those targeted law enforcement while three were pointed at other demonstrators. In a public safety committee meeting shortly after that, the Los Angeles Police Department cited slightly higher numbers: 16 reported incidents that resulted in 24 victims, of whom 20 were officers that were “injured or disrupted” while four were members of the public.

Also, per the language of the city’s preexisting municipal code, “authorized peace officers… shall be exempt from the provisions of this section.” That wasn’t lost on some of the public comments during last month’s committee meeting; one caller found it “abhorrent” that the city says it’s concerned with protecting peoples’ eyes but then “omits violence perpetrated by the LAPD against protestors,” specifically when “shooting bean bags into peoples’ faces.” Another caller said “I just don’t see the city in really having any expertise in this kind of thing,” while another pledged full support of the motion.

So if you find yourself pounding the pavement anytime soon, just make sure you don’t have a laser pointer in your pocket. Or—as we learned from brushing up on section 55.07—a piece of lumber, a balloon filled with noxious matter, a glass bottle or any sort of shield. Fun.

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