Robin Hensel, whose lawsuit eventually produced a pro-freedom-of-speech decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court, calls Little Falls (Morrison County) the “Intolerance Capitol of Central Minnesota.” It seems that Red Wing (Goodhue County) is looking to be the “Intolerance Capitol of Southeastern Minnesota.”
Freedom of speech at City of Red Wing council meetings is under attack, with the Council advancing an ordinance intended to provide cover for police violence against residents, or, at the least to make it easier to prevent people from speaking. This sort of thing has recently been seen in Little Falls and Mankato. The good news is that a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision is basically supportive of freedom of speech.
Here is a note sent the afternoon before the meeting. I just happened to see this agenda item while checking out another objectionable item:
Dear Members of City Council (and members of the Red Wing Human Rights Commission):
I note item 9B on the November 27th Red Wing City Council agenda (http://red-wing.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php…) for this evening.
9B Motion to Introduce Ordinance #115, Amending City Code to Allow Law Enforcement to Arrest for Disorderly Conduct or Violations of Rules of Order at Public Meetings.
“DISCUSSION: The desire to allow for the constitutional rights of citizens to address their elected officials, applies equally to all members of our community, while providing for the orderly process of City business. Therefore, the need to clarify the process for participation at Government meetings and the actions of law enforcement upon violation of this orderly process, prompted discussion with the City Attorney to ensure the business of the City is accomplished while meeting the rights of our citizens. Attached is the proposed ordinance for consideration.”
And yet, there is not one word in the proposal relating to “the constitutional rights of citizens to address their elected officials” or “clarify [ing] the process for participation.” It seems to be all about criminal sanctions and procedures for silencing citizens.
Further, there is no citation to “The rules of order and procedure and orderly conduct at meetings of the City Council and all other Boards, Commissions, and public bodies of the City of Red Wing.” If there is such a document it surely should be attached or included for reference.
Further, I see no indication that this proposed ordinance has been reviewed by the Human Rights Commission, which it ought to be.
I am a great admirer of Robin Hensel and the freedom of speech fights she has been waging on behalf of all Minnesotans. In general it is my impression that the City of Red Wing might be better governed if more citizens were heard from. You, as a council, should be seeking to encourage, not discourage, public participation in your meetings.
I request that you not advance this proposed ordinance as it now stands.
Yours very truly,
1110 West Avenue
And here is an article about it in the local paper:
One of the more intelligent councilpeople, John Becker, had this to say on Facebook:
The vote to move forward to a second reading passed on a 4-3 vote. I voted against this motion because I felt it was unnecessary and over-reaching on the part of City Hall and I dislike the first amendment implications.
The back story is convoluted, but for whatever reason the City of Red Wing feels the need to have the legal authority be able to ‘taze and arrest citizens who are deemed ‘disorderly’ at a public meeting.
I actually wish Red Wing had a problem with too much passion for local issues. Engaged citizens is an asset that needs to be encouraged, not discouraged with the threat of preemptive arrest and punishment.
The motion now proceeds to a second hearing and vote.
Interestingly enough, the Mayor could invalidate this initial vote with a veto, which I believe kills this process dead in it’s tracks. The City Council would then need a 5-2 vote to over-ride a Mayor veto, which is probably not there.
Local attorney Carol Overland also wrote to the Council:
Please refer to the Agenda item 9b and Ordinance #115.
First, procedural issues:
1) I don’t see that this has moved through Committee and been approved and forwarded for Council review, and that is troubling. It appears that this is an initiative of Chief Pohlman, and I’m remembering his boilerplate ordinance from the police union that was, thankfully, not adopted a year or more ago. Promotion of adoption of a disorderly-conduct ordinance initiated after, and based on, a Supreme Court case case declaring a disorderly-conduct statute that “prohibits ‘disturb[ing]’ assemblies or meetings unconstitutional” should be questioned. Ordinance #115 would put the City of Red Wing on the wrong side of the law.
2) This should pass through the Human Rights Commission for review before proceeding to a vote. Chief Pohlman has direct access to that Commission!
1) Please read the Supreme Court’s opinion (linked and attached). This public interest attorney and advocate thinks that Ordinance #115 is not helpful. Again, Ordinance #115 would put the City of Red Wing on the wrong side of the law.
2) Why? This is an Ordinance looking for a problem…
Thanks for your consideration,
Carol A. Overland, Attorney at Law
Doubtless, more will be heard about this. In the meanwhile, here is contact information for the Council members:
The vote on the police-state ordinance:
No: Brown, Becker, and Munson.
Yes: Beise, Hove, Rehder, Schulenberg.
These folk badly need to hear from YOU about this:
firstname.lastname@example.org, 651.388.5935 (Mayor)
email@example.com,651.388.1072 (Council VP)
firstname.lastname@example.org, 651-261-1859 (Council President)
Pics and phone numbers here: https://www.red-wing.org/citycouncil.html