Los Angeles playground ban on lone adults would brand them as paedophiles, say critics

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 10:45pm

A proposed law banning lone adults from Los Angeles playgrounds has triggered an outcry from critics who say it would stigmatise single people as paedophiles.

Mitch O’Farrell, a city councilman, suggested the ban last month as a way to protect children from “creepy activity”. He cited drug dealing and other “disturbing behaviour” in or near playgrounds.

The law would bar adults unaccompanied by children from entering the playgrounds which dot parks around the city. The council is due to debate the proposal in coming weeks.

Critics have rounded on the idea as a nanny-state affront to single people.

“Why should the city assume that every adult without a child is a paedophile?” said a Los Angeles Times editorial . “That makes a childless adult a criminal just for being in a particular public space, which is an overreach that can lead to foolish enforcement – like ticketing people for sitting on a bench eating donuts.”

You can spin it any way you want but you are stigmatising single people who visit the park as paedophiles
LA resident Robert Alvarez

Indignant comments flooded O’Farrell’s Facebook page .

“I am a single person, who has often had legitimate reasons to spend time in a children’s playground without a child,” wrote Krystal Rains. “I take offence at the implication that I am a danger to anyone, child or adult when doing so.”

“That is ludicrous, I’m a woman over 60 years old and I can’t go to a playground,” said another post, from Cathy Prange. “My best memories are of my children and how much fun we had.”

Robert Alvarez said the proposal invented a problem that did not exist. “You can spin it any way you want but you are stigmatising single people who visit the park as paedophiles. Shame on you.”

Many pointed out that adults use playgrounds to exercise.

“I have a bad back, and frequently use playground equipment to hang, and stretch out my back. Would you make me a criminal for trying to get some pain relief?” wrote Gary Lynch.

“Often, the only place to do [pull-ups] is on a set of ‘monkey bars’ in the children’s area. Not sure why I should be blocked from a public space,” said Izzy Zayas.

Some rightwing outlets interpreted the row as evidence of liberal overreach. “Unbelievable,” said RedState.com .

“Nanny state gone wild. Los Angeles attempts to ban single adults from parks,” tweeted the libertarian-tinged Young Americans for Liberty.

O’Farrell is a Democrat who represents the 13th district, which includes parts of Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park. He did not immediately respond to an interview request on Monday.

However the backlash prompted him to defend the proposal in a Facebook post last week. “I want to reassure you – this is NOT a ban on adults without children from using our parks. This proposal is limited and affects a small area of a park.”

The councilman accused media outlets of incorrectly reporting his proposal, which he said emulated similar laws in Santa Monica, New York and Miami Beach. The department of recreation and parks backs the proposal.

O’Farrell noted it had generated “robust conversation” and said he was open to “thoughtful concerns”.