Peace at the beach in Malibu

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The feared continuation of violence at Malibu’s beaches did not occur this weekend. There was an increased number of Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s deputies patrolling the coastline because of last weekend’s brawls at Little Dume Beach and threats placed on Internet sites throughout the week.

The lone incident that sparked deputies’ attention was freelance photographer Jennifer Buhl’s placement of a sign on Little Dume stating “America’s beaches should be free and accessible.” She was jeered and called names by several people on the beach, but no violence occurred.

“It was an incident free weekend,” said Lost Hills Sgt. James Royal.

The mostly peaceful weekend came a week after two violent incidents at Little Dume. The first one took place on Saturday afternoon when a group of residents and local surfers confronted a group of 12 paparazzi at trying to capture actor Matthew McConaughey surfing on camera. A similar incident happened the next day.

Video footage of the confrontations have been posted on several Internet sites. And the incidents gained international attention from the gossip and news media.

Lost Hills Capt. Tom Martin said at a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday that there are two reported victims from the first incident, one beachgoer and one photographer, and four reported from the second conflict, all photographers. He said two detectives are working on the case and have relied on second-hand, edited footage posted online to identify more parties involved. The detectives are trying to get the other people to step forward to provide information and they have asked the photographers to turn over any footage or still shots of the events.

“This type of behavior will not be tolerated on the beach,” Martin said. “We are actively pursuing the individuals who are responsible for this behavior and we are going to do our best to prosecute them for this behavior. We are working within the law to enforce the law, [but] we need the cooperation of the victims … and get their help to identify the people who perpetrated the crimes.”

The recent violence is the latest development in what has been an escalating issue in Malibu and other celebrity-filled cities, finding a balance between the First Amendment rights of paparazzi and public safety. Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich spoke at the Wednesday press conference about a “new breed” of paparazzi.

“Many paparazzi in Malibu do their job within the law,” Conley Ulich said. “They are respectful of the people they photograph and the people who live and visit our town. However, there seems to be a new breed of paparazzi who act with reckless disregard for the safety of residents, visitors and children alike.”

The mayor said Malibu is teaming with other local cities to create a task force to find solutions to mitigate future problems. The task force will include Pepperdine University School of Law Dean Kenneth Starr and other Constitutional legal scholars.

“The task force will produce a guide to inform residents and visitors alike about legal actions they can take, both civil and criminal, to maintain peace and order in Malibu,” Conley Ulich said.

The mayor said she hopes the task force will begin meeting by August and provide recommendations in the fall.

The city has already begun working with Starr to determine what legislation could be passed without infringing on Constitutional rights.

Martin said one tool Sheriff’s officials have to prevent some problems from occurring is enforcing traffic laws such as speeding, red light running and illegal u-turns. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said the city could require paparazzi to obtain business licenses and to use better technology and equipment to photograph from safer distances.