Things are screwed up in Quartzite, Arizona: abuse of power, illegal arrests, and city council members who don’t even know basic rules and procedures. But in 21st century America nothing happens in a vacuum, no matter how much small-minded politicians wish it were so.
Forget freedom of speech, forget Open Meeting Laws, forget justice. Just sit down and shut up or you’ll be arrested, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Jennifer “Jade” Harris Jones had the floor during the Call to Public and was calmly making statements about improper adoption of new rules and procedures, some of which are in clear violation of Open Meeting Laws. For example, fewer people are allowed in the room, standing is prohibited, photography and videography are only allowed from one small area. Chief of Police Jeff Gilbert even attempted to force publisher Doug Gilford to choose between speaking and video recording the proceedings. (Check out Doug’s website here.)
You thought you had the right to speak as a citizen at a city council meeting, huh? Not in Quartzsite.
Councilman Joe Winslow didn’t particularly like what she had to say so he tried to pass a motion to shut her up, which in and of itself is a violation as motions can’t be passed while a recognized speaker has the floor. The mayor, Ed Foster, objected to this illegal motion and repeatedly defended her right to speak. He was completely ignored. Town attorney Pamela Walsma, stated that the council has a right “statutorily” to pass the motion but did not cite the statute. Amid commotion and shouting police officers pried the microphone from Jones’ hands and arrested her simply for speaking while she had the floor and the right to do so.
In a press release Foster wrote:
Seemingly bent on destroying the meeting, Joe Winslow shouted for her to be removed, even going so far as to take a vote of the council [all of whom went along with this ridiculous ploy.] You cannot challenge the First Amendment simply because you don’t care for the speaker or even for what is being said. As I repeatedly stipulated during the course of this most damaging [to the Town of Quartzsite as well as to Jones] incident, I am the individual elected as Mayor and the proper running of these meetings are my responsibility.
Police chief Jeff Gilbert arrested Mrs Jones over Mayor Ed Foster’s objections.
The Quartzite News has reported that this meeting is soon to be declared illegal along with all the others that have happened since some of the town’s officials began efforts to intentionally limit space in an effort to avoid public scrutiny at the town hall meetings. Also being reported is that attorney Pamela Walsma has left town and is being replaced by Martin Brannan. City council member Jerry Lukkasson requested his city email account be shut down so he wouldn’t have to get any more pesky emails from the public. The city council seems to hate the public. Notice that the agendas specifically state “Not open for public discussion.” How the hell can that be!?
Draft minutes from the meeting are always made public so I’m posting them here:
Mrs Jennifer Jones, resident thanks Council Member Anderson for reading the rules that the Town has in place on the agendas for public comment. Mrs Jones continues to speak about those rules. Council Member Winslow calls for “points of order”. Mrs, Jones continues. Council Member Winslow motioned that this (inaudible) be removed for the duration of the meeting. No audible second. Council Member Winslow calls for the vote. Vote is inaudible. Mayor Foster states that this lady has the floor, she has been recognized and has the floor. Council Member Winslow states the Council has passed the motioned Council Member Winslow advises Mrs Jones to leave or be escorted out. Confusion and chaos erupts. Shouting and hollering regarding the motion that was made by Council Member Winslow. Town Attorney Walsma states that there was a motion, a second and there was a vote, Mayor Foster states motions can’t be made during a Call to the Public; it is not on the agenda. Town Attorney Walsma states that the Council does have that right statutorily, Shouting and hollering continue. Significant disruption erupts.
The behavior of the police officers is insane. If I’m not mistaken these officers could lose their badges for failing to follow a direct order from an executive member of the city government.
So what can we do? First, attend your city council meetings! In fact, learn who your city council members are if you don’t already know. What else? Hound the mayor (the good guy in this mess) to pursue all forms of legal action against the officers and other city council members.
His personal email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org and his work email is email@example.com
Show this video to everyone you know, put it on Facebook and Twitter, blog about it. Contact your state representatives, they need to see this video. Email the ACLU, write to your local paper. Make a big deal out of this! We the people are watching and we demand justice! This kind of crap is not ok in my America.
Write to the rest of the Quartzite council and tell them what you think. (I have a few choice words for Joe Winslow.) Their website is here.
Bob Kelly firstname.lastname@example.org
Jose Lizarraga email@example.com
Joe Winslow firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry Lukkasson email@example.com
Patricia Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org