State Sen. Amy Galey has introduced a bill that could have a significant impact on Greensboro City Council meetings.
Galey is a first term Republican who represents all of Alamance County and the eastern portion of Guilford County.
The bill is titled, “An Act to Increase the Penalty for Disrupting an Official Meeting of a Public Body.”
In a press release Galey said, “The current law is confusing. It is based on trespass law and focuses on whether a person leaves a public meeting when requested. This new law deals with the conduct that disrupted the public meeting.”
The Greensboro City Council has had a continuing problem with people disrupting its meetings. Whether by shouting, chanting, singing or clapping, organized groups have been disrupting City Council meetings for years.
On May 2, 2017, a group of singing women in pink hats took over the dais after the City Council had left the dais and scurried to the back room where they were protected from the singing women in pink hats by a phalanx of armed police officers and two locked doors.
No one was arrested that night because the women in pink hats and others stopped singing and left the council chambers when they were told to do so by the police.
If this act becomes law, those women in pink hats could be arrested simply for disrupting the meeting, whether they left when they were ordered to leave or not.
As Galey noted, people who have disrupted City Council meetings were only arrested if they refused to leave after being ordered to leave.
This bill, if it becomes law, would allow the Greensboro police to arrest people, not for refusing to leave the meeting, but for disrupting the meeting.
One of the advantages of meeting remotely is that groups cannot disrupt meetings and, when time runs out, a speaker is muted and can’t continue to speak or shout at the City Council. Also, from April through September, Mayor Nancy Vaughan did not allow any speakers during the public forum portion of the meeting, aka speakers from the floor, which resulted in some extremely short meetings, since the primary purpose of the first meeting of the month is to hold a public forum.