Mitchell Orders Security for all Council, Committee Meetings
(APN) ATLANTA — Ceasar Mitchell, President of the City Council of Atlanta, has ordered security at all meetings of Full Council and Council Committees.
The security officers began appearing two weeks ago at the last Full Council meeting. Activists inquired at Monday’s Committee on Council meeting as to why security officers were now appearing at meetings, and Mitchell sent in a note to Chairwoman Felicia Moore (District 9).
In a text message to Atlanta Progressive News, Mitchell says this about providing security, not suppressing dissent, but activists disagree.
“In the wake of recent incidents around the country, many councilmembers have expressed a desire to provide greater safety presence for citizens, Councilmembers, and city employees at City Hall and during public meetings,” Mitchell wrote in a text message.
“It absolutely was not done in response to any specific person or any particular interaction or event at city Hall. Also, it is by no means a tactic to keep order or suppress public participation. Not only is that not my style, but I can maintain order without police presence,” Mitchell wrote.
“Really it is about protecting members of the public and city employees from that one out of a million person who decides to come to City Hall with the specific intent to cause physical or mortal harm to another human being. I do not intend to join the growing list of jurisdictions that have to face the very difficult question of why it failed to be proactive in protecting against some deranged individual’s heinous act,” Mitchell wrote.
APN asked Mitchell why it was necessary to have security at meetings when individuals have to already go through metal detectors at the front entrance.
When asked if the front entrance security was inadequate, Mitchell wrote, “Not saying that at all. However, do note that a building wide security assessment is about to be done. Also keep in mind that there are several points of entry into City Hall. This current measure is just one of what is likely to be a number of layered safety measures.”
Brother Anthony Muhammad first noted that there had been a security guard standing in the back at the COC meeting.
“First time I’ve seen they got a police in here. I don’t know whether it’s supposed to be intimidation. I met the young brother,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad recalled an incident where he said he went up to talk to Mayor Kasim Reed’s Deputy Communications Director Reese McCranie about the programming on Channel 26 and that McCranie threatened to call the police on him.
Later, Communications Director Sonji Jacobs Dade told CD/HR, “My door is always open to meet with any member of the public regarding Channel 26. I believe Brother Muhammad was having a conversation with a member of my staff and the conversation went in a direction where a member of my staff felt it was no longer appropriate.”
“They’re not here for you,” Moore told Muhammad at Cmte.
“I’d like to say to the public there is a police officer standing in the rear of this room out of camara view, and to the Chair, I’d like to ask… Why is he here and who requested him?” activist Dave Walker said.
“I can’t answer that… but he is here. I have seen… him or others at some other meetings as well. I’m sure it’s part of a greater strategy to making sure we have a secure City Hall,” Moore said.
“Ms. Moore that is the worse answer I’ve ever heard. You’re the Chair of the Cmte, and there are things in here you don’t know about,” Walker said.
“To see him in there is supposed to be intimidating but it’s not,” Walker said.
“I read that Atlanta is the second-most violent city in America. That police officer would be better served if he went out there on the street,” Walker said.
“I think you know why he’s here and I think you know who requested him,” Walker told Moore. “You all know that I’m not afraid of police because I haven’t done anything wrong,” Walker said.
At that point, one of Moore’s aides delivered a note stating that Mitchell requested the officer for the safety of City Hall, which Moore read aloud, adding, “So, now you have someone to attack.”
“Mr. Mitchell ought to come get him [the officer] out of here before I talk about the 15,000 dollars he had to pay [ethics fine to the City]. Because none of us in here are gonna do anything like that [be violent],” Walker said.
“We don’t need him in here. We need him out there at Five Points and Alabama where they’re out there selling nickle bags like they at K-mart. When I see Ceasar Mitchell, I’m gonna tell him, I expected better things from you. You are cut from the same old cloth and I don’t appreciate it,” Walker said.
Walker said someone had suggested the security officer was added due to the shooting of US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). But he said that shooting was not a proper justification because it took place in open space.
“Every time I come in here, they search me. They search everybody,” Walker said.
Later, during Full Council, activists including Muhammad and Walker complained again about the police presence. After Muhammad’s comments, Mitchell said they were not there because of him, adding, “Please come back and make your comments. We want you to come back.”
(END / 2011)