The City of Los Angeles has been forced to pay out $215,000 to a man who was kicked out of a Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners meeting in 2011 for wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood in the meeting.
Michael Hunt said that the city leaders violated his constitutional rights when they ejected him from the meeting for wearing the hood. Hunt, who is black, was also wearing a t-shirt with a racial slur used to describe African Americans. Hunt, who is a vendor on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, said he had been wrongfully arrested for disturbing the peace of the meeting.
Lawmakers voted unanimously to settle the suit on Wednesday instead of going forth with a trial. Hunt’s attorney, Stephen Rohde, told the L.A. Times, “These rules of decorum should not be used to silence people unless they engage of actual disruption of the meeting. And actual disruption doesn’t mean upsetting people or offending people.”
Councilman Bernard Parks argued against going to trial, stating “This is one of those things where you hold your nose and vote. If this thing had gone to a trial and [Hunt] had gotten $1, the attorneys’ fees would have been larger than what we paid to settle it.”
According to a report by City Attorney Mike Feuer, witnesses did not think the hood and shirt were a distraction, saying, “Rather most of those in attendance felt that [Hunt’s] was only mildly distracting and confusing, and that under the circumstances, he should have been allowed to stay.”
Hunt has won cases against the city before, winning a $264, 286 jury award he received after challenging vending restrictions on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. According to Hunt’s lawyer, he wore the hood and t-shirt to reflect his feelings on the city’s discrimination. Hunt claimed being kicked out of the meeting caused him emotional distress and reportedly thanked the officers escorting him out of the room for a “big payday.” Rohde refutes this claim.