Keeping people out of the latest public meetings is a must ( News Iowa )

Intimidation is never appropriate for our elected officials, and they must exhaust every detail before seeking exclusion.

Today’s elected officials can find, if they are so inclined, vulgar and threatening criticism of their work within moments of opening the phone.

All over the country we have seen large crowds in public meetings boiling with anger and fury, so that they could not be built up to an accurate understanding of what the board or the council or the executive was doing. It is therefore appropriate to spare the moment of compassion and appreciation for public servants who risk and tolerate such abuses.

But none of these changes means that the same elected officials have the responsibility of observing the long-observed conventions of open government, as well as the principles prescribed in the Constitution and in the laws.

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Which brings us to the string of incidents in Iowa, where leaders sought to silence and exclude constituents who expressed their grievances publicly.

The cases could be considered separately. But serious answers must be given, so that they do not believe a little in the false opinion that it is acceptable to exclude them from seeing and speaking with their ambassadors.

In Newton last month, Noah Petersen was arrested after speaking at a meeting at the Vatican Council. The mayor told Petersen to leave after he said, “I think the top two fascists in this town, Michael Hansen and the police chief, should be removed from power.” Petersen refused to leave, and the police entered.

In the second month of October it was acted that Petersen was tumultuously accused in the council; he had done a similar event three weeks earlier. A law firm representing the city, defending the decisions to detain and depose Petersen for what he called “derogatory” comments, dismissed the mockery, arguing that “the city has the power and rules of conduct to impose time, place, and manner restrictions on public meetings. .

It is true. It also has nothing to do with restricted derogatory speech.

A bench trial for the previous charge is scheduled for Dec. 15, as Petersen’s attorney Gina Messamer wrote: “It is well established that the state’s ability to hear his opinion is one of the most important safeguards. First Amendment.’

What is terrible in both cases in Iowa is that it places limits on the ability to petition the government.

A closer call in assessing more intense responses comes when a prolonged disturbance impairs the body’s ability to carry out its task. At a Des Moines City Council meeting last year with activists challenging the approval of the Department of Commerce, officers arrested them when they refused to stop talking or leave. Even then, aldermen and councilors could have done more to avert the obstacle: they could have noted the obvious interest from the public in hearing about capital expenditures, but they didn’t.

Litigation continues in eastern Iowa after the Linn-Mar school district banned Amanda Pierce Snyder from attending board meetings for one year. She was removed from the meeting in August when officials discussed the action by interrupting the board, said to question the proposed contract with the company that “supports social, emotional and behavioral growth.”

The power to draw down the constituent is quite ambiguous. A preemptive ban on future public meetings? That sounds more like retribution than an attempt to maintain order. Such a prohibition must arise not without far, much greater provocation. Linn-Mar officials felt they should. All I had to do was read the news about the Iowa State Patrol’s brutal order telling racial justice activists to stay out of the state after the 2020 conflict. The composition restrictions were lifted and the state demanded to pay the activists $70,000.

To be fair, elected leaders are often right. Some boards read a boilerplate proposal – not an order – to avoid individual speakers, then sit back and listen even if a stranger does it. At an Ankeny board game meeting last month, anti-personnel activist Kimberly Reicks put on a drag to make a point about after-school performance. The members of the school board gave him the floor and then took their place.

But if the approach should be the default: The constituents have their say, whether coherent or coherent, true or deceptive, polite or biting.

It is very true that prayer can hurt. The very words can cause violence in oppressed communities. After all, this is a state where, at least twice in the past 40 years, angry men have opened fire on public works, killing Mount Pleasant Mayor Edd King in 1986 and terrorizing Jackson County officers in 2014. Physical safety is a necessary consideration. : Running for office does not mean risking your life.

The rest of us, the governments, can only act responsibly by asking our government.

But the expectation of violating some of the public orders cannot justify threatening to jail people for speaking out. Intimidation is never appropriate for our elected officials, and they must exhaust every detail before seeking exclusion.

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