Nov 2, 2021 - News

Some disruptors at Des Moines City Council meetings face consequences

A photo of a Des Moines city council meeting.

One person was arrested and multiple people were removed from Des Moines' City Council meeting on June 28. Screenshot of the city of DSM's live meeting video

City and school board meetings across the Des Moines metro have seen disruptions and threats recently, but consequences vary by location.

What's happening: Des Moines has pursued violations against at least four people at recent City Council meetings, court records show.

  • But there haven't been any arrests or trespass warnings stemming from unruly behavior at Ankeny School Board meetings, school and police officials told Axios last week.

Why it matters: Going after disruptors can be legally tricky.

  • Ankeny School Board member Lori Lovstad told Jason school officials could face blowback from some groups who argue that the district is trying to silence their views.

Driving the news: The results of Tuesday's election could lead to a reversal in how some metro schools and councils are handling pandemic precautions and other politicized issues, such as critical race theory.

Be smart: Free speech has wide protection but threats of violence are not among them, according to the ACLU of Iowa.

  • Government bodies can restrict the time, place and manner that people address them, but the rules must apply equally to all speakers regardless of their point of view, the ACLU notes.

Zoom in: In Ankeny, police have provided security at some of the recent meetings but have not made arrests.

  • Police haven't received any reports alleging that a speaker has violated their rights, a step that could identify victims and lead to arrests, Sgt. Corey Schneden told Axios.

What they're saying: Board members want to focus on business and avoid getting sucked into the politicking that surrounds some of the issues they're addressing, Lovstad said.

  • It's unknown if students have been reprimanded for behavior at recent meetings. The district doesn't comment on student discipline, spokesperson Jamie Loggins-Evans said.

Meanwhile, DSM has tightened its public speaking rules in recent months after ongoing disruptions derailed some of its meetings.

  • John Thomas Noble, 26, pleaded guilty on Oct. 22 to interference with official acts in a case linked to a June DSM City Council meeting. He served a day in jail and was fined $250.
  • Others recently accused of council disruption: Paden Sheumaker, 24, of DSM; Kathleen Galloway Menke, 47, of Johnston; and Jacob Grobe, 42, of DSM.

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