St. Louis Park leaders may amend or repeal an ordinance banning targeted residential protests, after officials discovered the restriction has been on the books for nearly half a century.

City Manager Tom Harmening told the City Council at a study session this week that St. Louis Park has had a targeted protest ban since 1976 — an ordinance he said he was unaware of until the city attorney recently discovered it. Harmening said the council can decide whether to keep the policy, update it or "refresh it."

A decision to change the ordinance — or remove it altogether — would be in stark contrast to a growing number of cities that have recently passed resolutions banning residential protests.

After more than a hundred Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered outside the home of former Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll in Hugo over the summer, that city adopted what is called a "targeted picketing" ordinance, which prohibits marching, standing or patrolling a particular residential building by one or more people.

Since then, bans have been spreading across the northern suburbs, with a half dozen cities passing similar ordinances.

Neighboring Lino Lakes and Centerville were the first to follow Hugo's measure, despite having no residential protests in recent memory.

Otsego, Elk River, Lake Elmo and Andover are among the latest to adopt the ordinances, while Blaine and others are considering their own bans.

St. Louis Park isn't alone in having a longstanding residential protest ban, though it may be one of the oldest in the metro area. White Bear Township passed a similar measure in 1990 following protests outside the home of a former executive director of Planned Parenthood Minnesota. Mahtomedi followed suit in 1991.

Other cities with targeted protest bans include Shore­view and Woodbury, which passed an ordinance in 2009 after animal welfare activists picketed homes of 3M executives.

Jacque Smith, communications manager for St. Louis Park, said in an e-mail that the city is not aware of any particular event that led to enacting its ordinance 45 years ago.

Mayor Jake Spano said in an interview Wednesday that there have been no residential protests in St. Louis Park in recent memory, so there hasn't been a need to enforce the existing ban.

Spano said he's keeping an open mind about the ordinance, as the council has not yet decided whether to keep it, repeal it or pass something completely different. The city attorney is reviewing the existing ordinance and will provide suggestions to the council for consideration, Smith said.

"We want to make sure people's First Amendment rights are protected and their constitutional right to assembly — and that it happens safely," Spano said.

Theoretically, if people showed up outside his home with a bullhorn, Spano said, he would be OK with it.

"But what about my elderly neighbor or a neighbor with an autistic child?" he said. "How does this impact people in the neighborhood?"

Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751