Statement from Ald. Vasquez on the December 7th Committee of Immigrant and Refugee Rights Meeting

Public statement on teal background with loudspeaker graphic and logo of Ald. Vasquez

Dear Neighbors,

Yesterday, during the public comment period of the Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights Meeting, a member of the public was removed from chambers after causing a disruption as other members of the public were speaking.

Mr. George Blakemore, a concerned citizen and regular attendee, expressed disappointment at a change in the duration of each person’s allotted time during the public comment period.

We decided to make this change, which is permitted by the rules, due to the amount of speakers who signed up to comment. There are 30 minutes allowed for public comment per the municipal code. Typically there are 10 speakers or less, so each person gets 3 minutes to speak. As there were 30 people signed up, we made the change to allot one minute for each speaker, so everyone’s voices could be heard.

While we fully understand the frustration of folks who had prepared to speak for more than one minute, we believe this was the best decision, since it prioritized us hearing from as many people as possible. 

Mr. Blakemore expressed frustration that he only received one minute, which was his right to do. However, once his time period was over, he then proceeded to yell over the next speaker. As he was not only being disruptive, but also impeding on someone else’s free right to speech, I issued a warning that we would have to ask that he be removed if he continued to prevent other speakers from being heard. He responded, “then do it,” at which point I gave the Sgt. at Arms permission to remove him.

The Sgt. at Arms and his team moved forward with removing Mr. Blakemore, who refused to leave. In an attempt to de-escalate, I went to speak to Mr. Blakemore, who expressed repeatedly that he didn’t want to leave. I told him that while I respected his ability to speak, he was impeding other speakers from doing so. I also told him that I wanted him to participate, but that he would have to do so from the third floor, so he could continue to be in attendance without being disruptive. I gave Mr. Blakemore the option of going upstairs or leaving. He refused to do either, and was thus removed from the council chambers. 

Every member of the public has the right to engage in our council meetings and committee hearings. Members of the public pay for and own our city government. When one member of the public is disruptive and impedes the ability for others to engage, we have to address it so that proceedings can continue, and everyone’s voices can be heard.

My hope is that going forward, we will all honor each other’s right to be heard, and give everyone the respect of listening to their opinions and perspectives, whether or not we agree with their stance. It is this willingness to hear each other out that makes for a healthy community, and a healthy government body.

Yours in Service and Community,

Signature of Andre Vasquez

Andre Vasquez