As the Writers Guild of America strike continues with no end in sight, police in Burbank say they’ve taken steps to clamp down on noise from drivers honking their horns in solidarity with the strike.
In the days after the strike began on May 2, the Burbank Police Department put up a digital sign outside Warner Bros. urging drivers to keep the noise down.
The sign reads: “Excessive horn use violates 27001” of the California Vehicle Code. According to the vehicle code, horns can be used “when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation,” but they “shall not otherwise be used.”
A Burbank police spokesman said the sign went up after people living near the studio voiced concerns.
“We got numerous complaints from residents about the incessant horn-honking,” police Lt. John Pfrommer told Urban Hollywood 411. “It’s impacting the quality of life for our residents.”
Disney is right down the street, but the bulk of complaints have been about noise around Warner Bros., according to Pfrommer.
In response, police sent someone to the picket line to speak with strike captains, then the sign went up.
“To do nothing was not really an option,” said Pfrommer.
But at least one WGA member thinks the horn-honking is being blown out of proportion.
“We picket from nine in the morning until 5pm. We are not having noise disruptions and picketing after the dinner hour starts at 5pm,” said WGA member Angela Allen. “So at nighttime, there’s quiet.”
Allen, who served as a co-executive producer on The CW’s recently canceled series Kung Fu, has been making the rounds on the various picket lines. On Friday, she was outside Disney at a rally celebrating South Asian writers, which actress Mindy Kaling, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever filmmaker Ryan Coogler also attended.
The gathering was organized by Natasha Chandel, one of the chairs of the WGA’s South Asian Writers Committee.
“We comprise two billion of the world’s population and every studio is trying to get into our home countries and get our eyeballs, yet our writers really struggle to get staffed,” said Chandel. “This is our way of being seen, while supporting the bigger cause of the WGA to fight for fair compensation and regulate AI.”
Many passing motorists honked their horns in solidarity as the South Asian writers and supporters walked the picket line.
Allen said Southern Californians, especially in an industry town like Burbank, should be concerned about more than people honking car horns.
“Picketers on the streets fighting for their rights should bring everyone out because if employers can take away our rights and replace us with digital images and digital writers from artificial intelligence, then they can come for any worker,” she said. “The issue is much larger than honking horns.”
Earlier this year, a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled honking a car horn is not protected by free speech laws.
While some WGA members and motorists have posted warnings on Twitter that Burbank police could soon start citing drivers for honking, for now that’s not part of the plan.
“We don’t want to go the route of giving out tickets,” said Pfrommer.
He added that the digital sign has so far “drastically reduced the noise.”