Mayor Wu Files Ordinance Regarding Targeted Residential Picketing: Ordinance Seeks to Protect the Quality of Residential Life in Boston

Mayor Michelle Wu on Feb. 28 filed an Ordinance Regarding Targeted Residential Picketing, adding parameters to protect the health and well-being of residents in our neighborhoods against targeted harassment. Targeted residential picketing means picketing, protesting, or demonstrating, with or without signs or sound amplification, that is specifically directed towards a particular residence or one or more occupants of the residence, and which takes place before or about the targeted residence. The ordinance would restrict targeted residential picketing only between the hours of 9:00pm and 9:00am, and would not affect marches or protests passing through residential areas that are not targeted at a particular home.

“Boston has a strong legacy of activism, and it’s important to uphold and protect the ability to speak out and advocate fiercely to keep our democracy strong,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “But in a moment of divided national politics, we can’t normalize the harassment and hate spilling over into our communities. Boston must model not only bold, urgent policies, but also inclusive, empowering politics.” 

“This ordinance will add to our existing laws to stop harassment of residents in their private homes, while respecting the right to protest,” said Acting Commissioner and Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory P. Long. “People have a right to privacy and peace in their homes.” 

The City of Boston is committed to the First Amendment right to protest, while protecting residents’ privacy and the quality of residential life. Targeted residential picketing that occurs late at night or early in the morning increases the intrusion on the privacy and sanctity of the home, and is particularly harassing and detrimental to the sleep and well-being of families, including seniors and families with children.

The ordinance would protect any targeted residence, not just elected officials’ homes. The U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed such protections, Frisby v. Schultz, upheld a local ordinance in Wisconsin created after anti-abortion protesters consistently targeted doctors who performed abortions, by repeatedly picketing outside their homes. The framework proposed for Boston would restrict targeted residential picketing only at night and in the early morning. The order will complement existing prohibitions against excessive noise, disturbing the peace, and blocking of streets and sidewalks through these clear guidelines around targeted residential picketing.

“Public protests at people’s homes must have reasonable limits. These demonstrations are not only causing stress to the families of elected officials, it is also hurting their neighbors, many of whom are seniors, persons with disabilities, veterans and young children,” said Boston City Council President Ed Flynn. “Now is the time to come together as a city and country to treat each other with empathy, respect and dignity.”

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