“Obscene. Keep our City Tasteful. Keep Driving”

Chino Hills resident Jim Gallagher stands in front of an anti-Biden vendor stand for four hours on Wednesday on Pipeline Avenue north of Chino Hills Parkway holding a sign that says “Obscene. Keep our City Tasteful. Keep Driving” to protest the apparel, some containing expletives and vulgar language. 

A pop-up vendor stand selling apparel with political messages against President Biden and some supporting Donald Trump doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Its continued presence on Pipeline Avenue north of Chino Hills Parkway is bringing out residents like Jim Gallagher, Candy Soares and others who said the messages containing vulgarities and expletives against the president are distasteful in a family-oriented community. 

A person shouting accusations against President Biden into a megaphone has shown up for the last few days,  carrying two large Donald Trump flags.

Several customers stopped to purchase items on Wednesday while Mr. Gallagher held up his sign for four straight hours. 

He showed up again Thursday for three hours and will go as often as he can, he said.

Mr. Gallagher said several people have brought him water and one man who makes signs stopped to ask if he would like a sign. 

The next day, Mr. Gallagher was  given the sign shown in the photo. 

The vendor’s flags bearing the offensive two-word phrase against President Biden are no longer waving above the table because they have been sold.

Drafting an ordinance

On May 25, the Chino Hills City Council was presented with a sidewalk vending ordinance that would prohibit vendors from placing publications, signs, or other material on a stand or pushcart that would expose to public view material that is obscene. 

Profane language, on the other hand, is entitled to First Amendment protection, said assistant city attorney Elizabeth Calciano.

She cited a case in 1971 where the U.S. Supreme Court held unconstitutional a California statute prohibiting disturbance of the peace by offensive conduct under which a person was convicted for wearing a jacket reading “f--- the draft” in a courthouse. 

Ms. Calciano said if the city cites a vendor for a violation of the obscenity law, it could be subject to a lawsuit in which the city would have to pay not just its legal costs but the plantiff’s attorney fees. 

“Obscenity is not protected but profanity is,” she said. “We need to be careful to tread that line very carefully.”

The city had been reworking its street vendor law prior to when the pop-up vendors began showing up last month. 

State vendor law

In January 2019, a law signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown went into effect that decriminalized street vending.

According to the law, sidewalk vending “provides important entrepreneurship and economic development opportunities to low-income and immigrant communities.”

It also “increases access to desired goods, such as culturally significant food and merchandise,” according to the law. 

The statute does allow cities to regulate sidewalk vending with a permit system and allows restrictions related to health, safety and welfare concerns, and to prevent an undue concentration that interferes with the public’s enjoyment of natural resources and parks, Ms. Calciano said. 

The state sidewalk vendor law also allows the prohibition of stationary sidewalk vendors in residential zones and the restriction of hours of operation in residential areas. 

The law prohibits stationary vendors in parks if the city has an exclusive vendor agreement.  

Ms. Calciano said the city has existing ordinances that regulate public displays of obscenity and that the proposed ordinance would also prohibit obscenity, but not profanity which is protected speech.

The city’s proposed ordinance would prohibit sidewalk vendors from operating in a park, open space, or residential zone earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 30 minutes after sunset. 

After a lengthy discussion, the council directed the city attorney’s office to consider insurance requirements to protect the city against liability claims, to make revisions necessary to protect the public’s enjoyment of parks and events in parks, and to ensure that vendors are a sufficient distance away from street corners to ensure public safety. 

Although the political pop-up vendor has placed a portion of the table on the sidewalk facing Pipeline Avenue, it does not impede pedestrians from using the sidewalk, city officials said. 

A vendor with similar merchandise that appeared near the Albertsons shopping center on Grand Avenue and Peyton Drive for about a week no longer shows up.  

Brown & Associates

Both pop-up vendor booths are owned by the same company: Brown & Associates of Los Angeles, with the owner listed on the business license issued by the city as David Brown. 

His employees move around to various cities such as Yorba Linda and Brea. 

Ms. Soares, who has joined Mr. Gallagher and others, said the overall hateful messaging is disturbing. 

“It’s hard to understand why people feel the need to be so ugly,” she said. 

“We all have different perspectives and I wish we could have a discussion about issues, but it feels impossible with those who spew despicable, hate-filled rhetoric, like the person with the bullhorn,” she said.

“Someone has to speak up and to say this kind of divisive, hateful messaging is not welcome in our city,” Ms. Soares said. 

Mr. Gallagher noted that the election is over. 

“I don’t think these guys care about a political stand. They’re a business profiting off hate and peddling hate,” he said. 

After the city attorney’s office completes the revisions, the ordinance will come back to the Chino Hills City Council. 

 

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