Jun 16, 2021 - News

Des Moines seeks to curb disruptive City Council meetings

Protesters showed up at Des Moines' City Council meeting Monday with signs.

The public hearing portion of the Des Moines City Council meeting Monday was postponed due to disruptions. Photo courtesy of the city of DSM’s live meeting video

DSM is evaluating extra safety and decorum protocols after dozens of protestors disrupted Monday's City Council meeting, city officials told Axios.

Driving the news: Demonstrators showed up to the council's first in-person meeting of the year with defund police signs, demanding that the city deny a nearly $11K police officer training proposed for later this summer.

Why it matters: While the protests were peaceful, some are concerned they put public safety at risk, including to demonstrators themselves.

  • City leaders are now warning of arrests or citations if such disruptions continue at future meetings.
  • Plus: Unruly meetings make it difficult for citizens to tell elected officials about their concerns.

What they're saying: The council chambers "are like a pressure cooker," and high emotions in such a crowded space can spark panic, Police Sgt. Paul Parizek told Axios yesterday.

  • The actions of a single person in intense group settings can result in behavior that runs counter to the larger group's intentions, he said.

Yes, but: Monday's disruptions are the result of people feeling unheard, Lisa Whelan, of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, told Axios.

Flashback: DSM's problems with decorum during meetings have been going on for months.

  • Rules adopted last year at times limited speakers to less than 30 seconds. Policies have changed, but critics argue they're still too restrictive.

What's next: Monday’s public hearing portion of the council meetings will begin virtually this morning at 7:30am.


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