The Los Angeles City Council decided unanimously on Wednesday to pay a $215,000 settlement to a man who wore a Ku Klux Klan hood to a public commission meeting and then sued the city when they ejected him from the meeting.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hunt wore the hood while attending a meeting of the Department of Recreation and Parks’ Board of Commissioners in 2011. Hunt, who is black, claims the city violated his constitutional rights to free speech and due process by prohibiting him from speaking at the meeting and subsequently kicking him out. Hunt was also apparently wearing a T-shirt featuring an African-American slur.
Hunt’s attorney, Steven Rohde, told the Times that the settlement “means that the city is held accountable when it violates civil rights and First Amendment rights.”
Rohde said his client’s motivation for wearing the KKK hood was to protest against a Los Angeles city government he believes is “engaging in discrimination.”
City Councilman Bernard C. Parks said in the report that going to trial on the case would have been a bad business decision on the part of the city.
“This is one of those things where you hold your nose and vote,” he said. “If this thing had gone to a trial… the attorney’s fees would have been larger than what we paid to settle it.”
According to the parks commission’s rules, audience members are forbidden from “disorderly or boisterous conduct.” However, according to a report from City Attorney Mike Feuer, participants at the meeting were not impeded from carrying on with their business by Hunt’s presence.
“Most of those in attendance felt that [Hunt’s] garb was only mildly distracting and confusing, and that under the circumstances, he should have been allowed to stay,” Feuer wrote in the report.
The Times reports that Hunt has previously won a judgment against the City of Los Angeles; in 2009, he was awarded about $265,000 in a case challenging vending restrictions on Venice Beach. He also received $340,000 in attorney’s fees in that case.