ALRET: Seattle Noise Ordinance

Anitra Freeman (
Thu, 14 Oct 1999 00:05:24 -0700 (PDT)

Relevant to activists arriving for WTO.  Mayor Schell is considering a
veto, and we're encouraging him, but t stands as of now.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 22:23:42 +0000
From: Newell Aldrich
Subject: Seattle Noise Ordinance

Lorraine, bad news on the Seattle Noise ordinance amendments. The
language placing limits on exemptions for marches and rallies got voted
in and passed into law, by a 6-3 vote. The overall ordinance passed by
the same 6-3 vote. The language is:

"Sounds created by the unamplified human voice by a person or persons
engaged in lawful picketing, marches, rallies or parades in
nonresidential districts between the hours of 5 am and 11 pm on weekdays
and 5 am and 11 pm on weekends are exempt from provisions of this

This means that in order to be exempt from the Seattle Noise Ordinance,
protesters will need to:

1) Be in nonresidential districts in the designated times, and
2) Avoid using amplification, whether megaphones or speaker systems.

If the noise is in residential districts (the downtown area is not a
residential district), or a megaphone/speaker is used, it is NOT exempt
from the Noise Ordinance.

The standard for the "public disturbance noise" section is plainly
audible at a distance of 75 feet for nonresidential districts, 50 feet
for residential districts (no need for a decibel sound meter
measurement). Police can issue citations for first violation, with no
warning necessary. The fine is $100 for first offense, $250 for 2nd,
$500/up to 90 days in jail for 3rd offense (these fines were
considerably lowered in the council vote).

Additionally, if someone making noise doesn't stop making noise when
ordered to do so by a Police officer, the fine is $1,000 and/or up to 6
months in jail. 

So while we've been told the Noise Ordinance won't be used against WTO
protesters, the Police can now use it if they want to. The language
supported by the King County Labor Council which was in the ordinance
that ensured the Police could not use it has been removed from the
ordinance, by the 6-3 vote. This language was:

"This ordinance does not apply to persons engaged in lawful picketing or
in marches, parades,
rallies, or special events for the purpose of providing the public with

Those voting against the restrictive version were Councilmembers Licata,
Steinbrueck, and McIver. Incidentally, Mayor Schell came out in support
of keeping this language the Labor Council wanted as well.