KKK Hood-Wearing Man Wins $215K Settlement After Getting Booted From Public Meeting
A man who was kicked out of a public Parks & Recreation meeting for wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and a profane shirt with racial slurs against African Americans will now receive a $215,000 settlement from the City of Los Angeles.
Venice Boardwalk vendor Michael Hunt, who is himself black, claimed that his free speech was violated in 2011 when Barry Sanders (not the sports star), who was president of the commission at the time, told him he would have to change or leave. Hunt was eventually made to leave the meeting and was issued a citation for disturbing the peace, L.A. Times reports.
The citation was eventually dismissed, but Hunt filed a suit claiming that his right to free speech was violated since he was not allowed to speak at the meeting.
Hunt's lawyer, Stephen Rodhe, said Hunt's reasoning for wearing the offensive garb was to "co-opt" the images and turn them around on a city government he feels is "engaging in discrimination," Rohde explained.
According to the commission's rules, a true disturbance requires there to be threatening or abusive speech, or a disturbance so great that the meeting cannot be conducted. Wearing something offensive does not prevent the meeting from happening. And in fact, Hunt had done this before.
In 2009, Hunt showed up to a City Council meeting in a KKK outfit. Eric Garcetti, who was Council President at the time, was irked, but acknowledged Hunt's right to wear his outfit. However, enough councilmembers walked out that there weren't enough to legally hold a meeting, so it was cancelled.
Hunt also won $264,286 when he sued the city in 2009 over their vending restrictions on Venice Beach. The city also had to pay the $340,000 in legal fees attached to the case. By settling this most recent case, the City will at least avoid paying Hunt's legal fees.