After large house party, Lawrence Commission gives police power to enforce public nuisance law

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Lawrence City Commission passed an ordinance Thursday to change public nuisance laws after video circulated online of a massive house party near the KU campus.

The ordinance makes it a municipal offense to maintain or permit a public nuisance. Maintaining a public nuisance is defined as “knowingly causing or permitting a condition to exist which injures or endangers the public health, safety or welfare.”

The language allows the Lawrence Police Department to enforce the ordinance and issue citations.

The ordinance sunsets automatically at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2021.

City commissioners called a special meeting to address the issue after a professor posted a video of a house party across the street from David Booth Kansas Memorial stadium.

The party appeared to be packed with students, many of whom were not wearing a mask.

The issue was the center of debate at Thursday’s meeting.

“Clearly the house parties that are happening are a problem and clearly there’s behavior that is complete disregard for the safety of particularly the most vulnerable folks in our community,” said Mayor Jennifer Ananda.

Ananda, who was the only person to vote against the ordinance, went on to say that she thought there may be a better way to handle the situation in working with the university.

“I think there’s a better answer. I acknowledge the urgency that’s in front of us,” she said.

Commissioner Courtney Shipley said the ordinance wouldn’t be limited to breaking up house parties, but would instead be enforced at any event that created a public nuisance.

“I do not consider this entirely focused on students. If it was a wedding or a funeral that this was happening at and I saw it and it got out of hand, I would have the same reaction.”

Everyone on the commission cited the need to protect people who may be more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus.

“There are vulnerable people in our community that are relying on us to do what we can to ensure their safety during this pandemic, and that’s what we need to do,” said Commissioner Stuart Boley.

There’s currently an emergency order in effect in Lawrence that bans mass gatherings of 45 people or more.

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