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Billboard petition supporter arrested

SCV deputies say woman was arrested on suspicion of assault after altercation outside Walmart

Posted: April 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

Emotions appear to be running high over a petition drive aimed at stopping Santa Clarita’s plan to install electronic billboards along freeways in the city, resulting in several recent clashes between petition supporters and opponents and the arrest of a woman who was gathering signatures at a local Walmart this past weekend, sheriff’s officials confirmed.

Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Santa Clarita Station arrested the woman on Saturday on suspicion of assault outside the store, officials said.

The woman, whose name was not available from the department Sunday, was issued a citation to appear in court and was released, officials said.

Santa Clarita Station Sgt. Nagler said the assault amounted to “pushing.” He said station deputies have had to respond to other recent confrontations between petition organizers and people who support the billboard plan approved by the Santa Clarita City Council earlier this month. Apart from Saturday’s arrest, the clashes have been verbal, Nagler said.

“This is nothing new,” Nagler said. “A lot of times we get people who are protesting an issue and they think that at a Walmart or some other large store they can get the most opinions, and occasionally people show up that are opposed and words are exchanged.”

Freedom of speech allows for a healthy exchange of opinions, as long as words don’t degenerate into threats of physical harm, which is when deputies would need to step in, Nagler said.

“My understanding is that this incident escalated and there was an assault, a pushing kind of assault,” he said.
Santa Clarita City Council members in March approved an ordinance allowing county Metropolitan Transit Authority officials to place three double-sided digital billboards on freeways in the city in exchange for the removal of 62 aging billboards on Metro-owned property, mostly county transit right-of-ways along Railroad Avenue and Soledad Canyon Road. Residents opposed to electronic billboards launched a petition drive to reverse the council’s decision or put the issue on the ballot. Petition organizers say they have until May 5 to gather 13,000 to 17,000 valid voter signatures for the referendum to succeed.

Earlier this month, petition organizer Patti Sulpizio told the Signal that meeting the deadline would be challenging.
“It’s a very high number to achieve,” Sulpizio acknowledged.

“I realize it may not succeed,” Sulpizio added, “but to me it’s worth trying, because I felt totally dismissed and disrespected when I went to those council meetings.”

Council members held three public meetings on the Metro deal before voting March 25 to approve it. Large numbers of residents spoke out against the plan during the hearings.

If successful, the referendum would force the city to either repeal the ordinance or force a citywide vote on the issue, Sulpizio said.

Metro officials, meanwhile, have put off voting on the city’s ordinance, agreeing to wait until the referendum effort is settled. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, a member of Metro’s Executive Management Committee, requested the postponement, his aide told the Signal earlier this month.

Michael Cano, Antonovich’s transportation deputy, said the local dispute needs to be resolved first before the Metro committee can take up the matter.

Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston welcomed the postponement, telling The Signal earlier this month that he believes a majority of residents disapprove the deal with Metro, but Councilman Bob Kellar said he believes a “vast majority” of residents favor the agreement.

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