Update: Greensboro City Council Adds Safety Measures Following Arrests

10:57 PM, May 5, 2010   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- Changes to public safety are being implimented after protesters sat in council members' seats at Tuesday night's meeting.

A show of protest interrupted city government in Greensboro Tuesday night.

"The subculture of corruption and the double standards in the police department have not been adequately addressed," said one of the protesters from the mayor's seat.

A group of students called "The Spirit of the Sit-In Movement Initiative" actually sat in the City Council members' seats during a recess in Tuesday night's meeting.

They complained that city leaders are not representing the people. Video on the city's website shows Greensboro Police ending the outburst and escorting them out of council chambers. But once in the lobby area, the disruption continued and the group refused to leave the building.

Police say five of the group's members were arrested and charged with second degree trespassing. None of the protesters were put in jail, rather released by a magistrate on a written promise to appear in court.

Council member Zack Matheny said Wednesday, "If we're going to have things like this that are aggressive by nature, then we need to look out for the safety, not only of city council members, but the citizens that are attending the meetings as well."

"You feel a little bit vulnerable. You're trying to pay attention to the people speaking from the floor and then you've got individuals that are standing up and creating a disturbance," said Matheny.

Mike Speedling, Assistant City Manager for Public Safety for Human Resources, said the city will now increase the number of officers at the meetings. Speedling says instead of five officers, there will not be eight to nine. That's an additional cost of nearly $500 per meeting.

Other changes include having an officer guard the dais during council recesses, using metal detectors to check everyone attending meetings and closing at least one entrance to give fewer opportunities to enter the meeting.

Sharon Hightower is a Greensboro resident who attends every city council meeting.

"I think they're a little over-reactionary with the implementation of metal detectors because it's not about a violent situation, there's no threats made," said Hightower, who said what happened Tuesday did cross a line.

"I can understand as being a human being, you are afraid that somebody's passion will kind of go overboard a little bit," she said.

Matheny said he hopes to see the new security measures in place at the next council meeting on May 18.

WFMY News 2

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