The protester who has been ordered to stay away from District Attorney George Gascon spoke out for the first time Wednesday. (Examiner file photo)

Gascon’s restraining order against protester raises free speech questions

The protester who has been ordered to stay away from District Attorney George Gascon defended his actions Wednesday and said the top prosecutor is attempting to restrict his right to free speech.

Gascon filed a request for a stay away order against Victor Picazo on Oct. 9 after protesters repeatedly demonstrated outside his home and the Hall of Justice. The protests gained steam after Gascon declined to charge the officers who shot and killed Mario Woods and Luis Gongora Pat in 2015 and 2016.

He has since received a temporary restraining order against Picazo, who spoke publicly about the situation for the first time.

In a statement, Picazo admitted to writing “#JailKillerCops” in chalk on the side of Gascon’s house and to throwing watermelon at Gascon.

“Gascon tossed a piece of watermelon directly to my face,” Picazo said. “Out of outrage and anger I threw back some watermelon at him without the rind.”

Picazo made the statements outside San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday after his case was continued until Dec. 13. The judge assigned to hear the case Wednesday, Eric Fleming, had a conflict of interest because he previously worked for Gascon in the District Attorney’s office.

SEE RELATED: Gascon seeks restraining order after repeated protests over police shootings

“Gascon is singling out Mr. Picazo as one of the more visible community activists in an effort to chill Mr. Picazo’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech,” Picazo’s attorney, John Lee, wrote in a court filing Monday in response to the request for a stay away order.

The temporary restraining order prohibits Picazo from coming within 100 yards from Gascon or his wife, his home, his car, or place of work.

“Superior Court’s temporary restraining order barring Mr. Picazo from Mr. Gascon’s so-called workplace is a restraint on Mr. Picazo’s free speech right in a traditional public forum, the courthouse steps,” Lee continued.

The City Attorney’s office, which is representing Gascon, referred questions to the District Attorney’s office, which did not respond to requests for comment before press time.

Lee said he is representing Picazo pro bono.

“I thought he needed some representation because it doesn’t seem very fair to me that they’re singling him out,” Lee said. “Gascon is mad at Victor, and that’s not grounds for a restraining order.

The restraining order application detailed several incidents of Picazo and other protesters gathering at Gascon’s house and harassing Gascon and his wife at a restaurant.

In one instance, Gascon said Picazo “jumped in front of my car and hit my car” on June 17, as Gascon attempted to pull out of his garage with his wife. The incident was recorded on video and posted to Twitter by Bay Area rapper and protester Eqiupto, whose real name is Illych Sato.

Picazo and his attorney dispute the claim.

David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, who has no connection to the case, said the restraining order could raise First Amendment questions.

“As requested, the order is too broad under the First Amendment, at least as far as it says stay away from Gascon’s workplace,” Snyder said. “Say he filed a lawsuit, not against Gascon but someone else. He has a right as a citizen to ask the justice system to remedy a wrong.”

Snyder said the order might have other First Amendment concerns depending on how it was interpreted and enforced.

The temporary restraining order will remain in effect through at least Dec. 13, the next court date in the case.

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