The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s attempt to rein in disruptions that have interrupted board business repeatedly at its recent meetings comes up for final approval on Wednesday.
The proposed rule on decorum sets as a goal that “meetings are conducted in a way that is open to all viewpoints, yet free from abusive, distracting or intimidating behavior.” Those who violate the rules would be asked to stop, warned and then may be removed by police and subject to arrest for disorderly conduct.
What would be banned?
--· Speaking out of turn or making remarks when not recognized by the park commissioner running the meeting.
--· Shouting, chanting, disruptive behavior, clapping, stamping of feet, whistles, use of a bull horn and similar demonstrations.
--· Defamation, intimidation, personal insults, profanity, or threats of violence, or any other disruptive behavior.
Signs and banners would be limited to the back of the boardroom.
The proposal by Commissioner John Erwin also would set new limits on speakers. Anyone using “foul, abusive or inappropriate”language will be cut off during the board’s public comment time.
Speakers previously were barred from discussing pending lawsuits or personnel issues. Despite that, speakers were not cut off from disparaging Superintendent Jayne Miller or some other administrators, or complaining about discipline imposed on the speaker.
"We are here to do a job and we need to go about our business and it has been curtailed of late," said Commissioner Meg Forney, speaking for the proposal. But Commissioner Brad Bourn argued that some limits were overly broad.
Commissioner Scott Vreeland urged that the board act on the proposal early in its meeting Wednesday to give board President Anita Tabb more solid legal footing for any steps she needs to control the meeting. But that could mean the board would adopt them before the public had a chance to comment on them before the normal public comment period at 5:30 p.m.
“That’s a perfect example of what we’ve been experiencing,” said Raeisha Williams, an NAACP member. “It tells us blatantly that they don’t want to hear what we’re saying.”
Williams is one of four people who said they were NAACP members who were ticketed by police at the Sept. 7 board meeting. The others, all of whom appeared at a news conference the following day, were Rosemary Nevins, Emily Flower and Davina Newman. All but Newman were ticketed for disorderly conduct, and Newman was ticket for obstruction.
Those speaking in the 40-minute parade of news conference speakers called on the Park Board to apologize, drop any charges, and fire Miller. Some have been attending board meetings for months to allege discriminatory treatment for people of color in hiring, promotions and discipline. They allege that NAACP members were targeted among those who were ejected from the Sept. 7 meeting.
The removals and ticketing followed a flare-up at the meeting over whether Tabb was starting the board’s comment period on time. But they come against a backdrop over the past several months of protesters chanting or interrupting meetings with comments.