During an emergency meeting Wednesday morning, the Clark County Commission will consider an ordinance banning demonstrators from bringing backpacks or other luggage to protests, with few exceptions.
A draft of the proposed ordinance makes limited exceptions to what demonstrators can bring while attending a rally on or within 25 feet of public property, a street or a sidewalk. The vote will come after thousands of demonstrators have gathered in Las Vegas’ streets, mostly peacefully, to protest systemic racism and instances of police brutality in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.
The ordinance would ban protesters from bringing most bags, computer bags and backpacks, with an exception for bags smaller than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches. There is also an exception that would allow individuals to carry backpacks for medical devices and “essential equipment” for reporters. Strollers and carts would also be banned, except when medically needed.
Frequent late-night clashes between some protesters and local police escalated sharply through the weekend and as the protests have continued into this week. In Las Vegas, police arrested more than 150 demonstrators on Monday alone, and officials with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department announced Tuesday that the National Guard had been activated to assist crowd control efforts.
In a statement detailing the National Guard’s activation, Gov. Steve Sisolak said units would not be placed “on the front lines” nor would they be making arrests, and would instead be delegated to a support role.
The proposed ordinance comes as police departments in Nevada and nationwide have come under increased scrutiny over the use of crowd-dispersing tools like pepper-spray bullets or tear gas to control demonstrations.
A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what local body made the request for the activation.
Metro has since defended its actions, pointing to violent instigators who have sought to injure the department’s police officers by throwing rocks. At least 25 Metro officers have been injured since demonstrations began on Friday, while on Monday evening, an officer was hospitalized after being shot during a demonstration near the federal courthouse.
The officer remains in critical condition and is on life support, Chris Jones, an assistant sheriff for Metro, said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Another officer shot and killed a demonstrator, 25-year-old George Jorge Gomez, after police said he raised a firearm.
A resolution before the ordinance states that “the imposition of restrictions on the possession of these items during these events does not materially affect the ability [of] attendees to exercise their First Amendment rights and are common to those imposed during times of street closures.”
In an ongoing election year the commission’s response to the protests may yet morph into an electoral issue. On Tuesday, County Commission candidate and Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony said in a tweet that Jean prison should be opened as a holding facility “for all the violent rioters” and that they should be shipped “back to the state they came from.”