Van Nuys protesters take to airport runway to protest city move to referendum

Residents near Van Nuys Airport feel heard, but they’re still angry

A few days before the May 7 election, several dozen people, most of them young, marched through Van Nuys Airport on Wednesday. They were there to protest the election process and for an independent commission to oversee the city’s vote.

But when the crowd tried to enter the airport, security guards stopped them — and kept them out.

“We have been here for 17 days,” said one of the group’s members, a 22-year-old student named Aimee.

The group, which included students from nearby South Valley High School, took to the airport’s runway to protest the city’s move to move the May 7 election from the ballot box to a referendum, which would require signatures from voters in addition to those of city officials.

Their protest quickly turned into a shouting match.

“Do you want to have a city run by [a] mayor who would be a puppet?,” one of the organizers yelled at airport security. “Do you want to have an airport run by a puppet? Do you want to have a city where your money is stolen?”

Another member of the group — a Van Nuys resident named Katelyn Nunez-Etienne, 17 — told The Chronicle she was told the group could not access the airport’s runway because of the protest.

“When we tried to come here for our right to vote, we didn’t get kicked out. We were given a verbal warning and we were told to leave,” said Nunez-Etienne.

The city’s move was prompted by Proposition F, a ballot initiative, which would replace the city’s elected Mayor with a commission of four people. Mayor Tom Barrett is a member of the commission, but he did not participate in the vote.

Proposition F would make the commission a “single-member commission… with four voting members,” according to an assessment of the measure by Fair Political Practices, a nonpartisan election watchdog group in Los Angeles.

In the meantime, the city’s election will be held at the ballot box — and city officials fear the lack of a citywide election is

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