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Walnut Creek Considers Buffer Zone Around Planned Parenthood Over Protests, Confrontations

WALNUT CREEK (BCN) – The Walnut Creek City Council on Tuesday will discuss creating a buffer zone around Planned Parenthood to cut down on confrontations between protesters and patients.

During public comment period of two October council meetings, advocates on both sides of the abortion issue argued their case to the council. The issue wasn't on the agenda of either meeting.

According to a staff report for Tuesday's meeting, Walnut Creek police received 42 calls for service at Planned Parenthood on Oakland Blvd., between Jan. 1, 2020 and Nov. 5, 2021. Complaints included verbal and physical harassment and intimidation of patients and blocking sidewalks. There have also been reports of traffic accidents in the area related to distracted driving from pedestrians in the street.

Police say there have been calls from both sides, blaming the other. At least four people have been arrested, one for going inside the clinic and threatening people. A security guard for the group 40 Days for Life was arrested for allegedly pepper spraying people during a protest.

California law guarantees a person's right to enter a health care facility without obstruction, including for abortion procedures. The staff report points out it's also "a crime to use force, threat of force, or physical obstruction to, or attempt to, injure, intimidate or interfere" with those working at a clinic.

It's also a crime to photograph or videotape someone, or distribute material to intimidate patients, within 100 feet of a reproductive health facility. The Walnut Creek protesters have been accused of doing both.

Some California cities, such as San Francisco, Oakland and Napa, have buffer zones further restricting protesters' proximity to reproductive health care facilities. Some give patients and employees at least eight feet of personal space from protesters. San Francisco prevents protesters from engaging within 25 feet of an entrance, or impeding the entrance.

Tuesday's report offers the council other options, including extra police patrols in the area, allowing construction of a fence and gate to keep protesters away, or adding extra private security at the site.

The Walnut Creek City Council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber, at 1666 North Main Street in Walnut Creek. The meeting can be viewed at (webinar ID: 848 3425 8845, passcode 360213.

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