Technical problems halted the Walnut Creek City Council meeting Tuesday while the council discussed a proposed buffer zone around Planned Parenthood.
Mayor Kevin Wilk apologized to the people who came to speak on the contentious issue and said the matter would have to be continued at a future meeting. He said the council couldn't proceed with people expecting to speak on the matter via Zoom, which was apparently malfunctioning.
"We've come to rely on technology, especially during the pandemic," Wilk said. "And sometimes - usually it works, and sometimes there are glitches. This is unfortunate. I really apologize."
Wilk said the proposal would be continued "most likely" at a special meeting, with plenty of notice for everyone to get their say.
Walnut Creek police received 42 calls for service at the Planned Parenthood facility of Oakland Blvd., between Jan. 1, 2020 and Nov. 5, 2021. Complaints included verbal and physical harassment and intimidation of patients and blocking sidewalks. There have also been reports of traffic accidents in the area related to distracted driving from pedestrians in the street.
At least four people have been arrested, one for going inside the clinic and threatening people. A security guard for pro-life group 40 Days for Life was arrested for allegedly pepper spraying people during a protest.
California law guarantees a person's right to enter a health care facility without obstruction, including for abortions. The staff report for Tuesday's meeting said it's "a crime to use force, threat of force, or physical obstruction to, or attempt to, injure, intimidate or interfere" with those working at a clinic.
Some California cities, such as San Francisco, Oakland and Napa, have buffer zones further restricting protesters' proximity to reproductive health care facilities. Some give patients and employees at least eight feet of personal space from protesters.
Tuesday's report said the city could instead opt to beef up police patrols in the area, allow construction of a fence and gate to keep protesters away, or add extra private security at the site.