City council adopts harassment law


The city council on Thursday unanimously passed a street harassment law, making the city among four in the state with such laws.

Advocates say they are needed to support a national increase in walking and bicycling.

The Kansas City law is aimed at protecting bikers, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, blind people and guide dogs.

Because of free speech rights, it cannot prevent lewd comments but forbids many other things: honking or directing loud noises, throwing things, driving at victims or other conduct that creates a risk of serious physical injury.

Violators could face from $50 to $500 in fines and up to six months in jail.

The law had been delayed for a week by disagreement over one word and its legal implications.

The law originally forbid acting in a “frightening” way. Councilman Ed Ford led a successful effort to amend that to “threatening” and the council voted to send it back to the public safety committee, where committee chair John Sharp changed it to a third option, “intimidating,” and sent it back to the full council.

Ford had argued that court rulings supported “threatening” but not “frightening.”

Sharp cited city legal research that showed courts also supported “intimidating” and Ford and the other council members agreed to that language.

Sharp praised the process Thursday: “I think we have a language now that has real teeth in it and yet is constitutionally sound.”


  1. Brent Hugh says:

    FYI–KC is the fifth city to adopt a similar law in Missouri–previously Columbia, Greenwood, Independence, and St. Louis.

    This is a big step forward for all cities involved–kudos to everyone and all organizations who supported it!

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