County dumps proposed ordinance to ban backpacks at protests

CLV councilman says Metro will recommend to mayor a repeal of its ban

backpacks tho
Protestors hold signs - and some wear backpacks - outside the Container Park in Downtown Las Vegas condemning police brutality May 31. (Photo by Jeniffer Solis)

After receiving pushback from the community, the Clark County Commission isn’t moving forward with a proposed ordinance that would have banned larger backpacks and strollers at protests. 

“The ordinance that was introduced as an emergency measure will not be heard,” county spokesman Dan Kulin said in an email. The commission had originally scheduled to discuss the proposal at its Tuesday meeting.

Following protests against police brutality and ongoing demand for police accountability and reform, commissioners held an emergency meeting June 2 in order to discuss an ordinance to prohibit items like larger backpacks and strollers at protests. 

Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who said she had been thinking about the idea since February, was unavailable for comment Monday. 

At the meeting, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department lobbyist and police director Chuck Callaway cited concerns that protesters would carry rocks, frozen bottles and other projectiles in their backpacks in order to throw those items at the police.

Nevada Current reached out to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for comment on Friday and again on Monday, but they deferred to the county and declined to provide an additional comment. 

Last week, Kirkpatrick met with people from the community to get further input on the ordinance.

Laura Martin, the executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada who attended the meeting, said the county’s willingness to meet with people and address their concerns is a stark difference from the City of Las Vegas, which unanimously passed a similar ordinance June 2 without public comment.

“I feel that (Commissioner Kirkpatrick) is always open to feedback and criticism,” Martin said. County officials “are willing to listen instead of just ramming something through.” 

On Monday evening, City Councilman Brian Knudsen told the Current Metro is expected to make a recommendation to the mayor to consider a repeal.

“I’m in support of repealing it because at this point it has done more harm than good,” he said.

Martin didn’t understand the rationale behind limiting backpacks. 

“We are a desert town. If someone wants to throw a rock, they can bend over and pick up a rock,” Martin said. 

The ordinance, she added, has the potential of harming people who are carrying bags but just walking by or near protests. 

“You’ve seen videos of people just walking by at protests and officers grabbing them,” Martin said. “This ordinance casts too wide of a net and could potentially ensnare people who do not want to cause violence.”

Martin and others have noted that no proposals or restrictions were suggested when people with high-powered assault rifles gathered outside Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mansion and the Grant Sawyer State Office building to speak out against restrictions put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19. 

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.