ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — No yelling, no cursing, no signs. It’s all now prohibited inside Anne Arundel County Council chambers. But some say this violates constituents’ First Amendment rights.
Linh Bui explains the new rules.
The Anne Arundel County Council is cracking down on public outbursts with a new resolution that outlines what you can and cannot do during meetings.
A frustrated father was forced to leave a town hall with Baltimore County school officials. Outbursts like this recent incident are now banned in Anne Arundel County.
Council members just passed a resolution banning visual demonstrations inside chambers, like signs, balloons and banners. Also prohibited? Personal, defamatory or profane remarks and loud, threatening or abusive language.
According to the resolution, the chairman can remove anyone who does not abide by these new provisions and can also suspend testimony that’s not relevant to the subject of the hearing.
Councilmember John Grasso opposed the resolution, which he says was sparked by a few hostile outbursts.
“You gotta be able to take what the people have to say. You can’t suddenly start telling them, ‘I don’t like the way you’re dressed’ or `I don’t like the way you’re talking to me.’ It’s called freedom of expression. You have the right to say what you need to say,” Grasso said.
Reactions in the county were mixed.
“I think it’s bogus. I think it’s anarchy. It’s crazy; it’s not right,” said Anthony Lyle.
“I think that’s probably the right thing to do. There’s a tactful way of delivering any message,” said Don Eaton.
“I can’t possibly imagine how that could violate anybody’s First Amendment right,” said Barry Weiss.
Grasso expects a lot more reactions from the public but they have to follow the rules if they want to be heard.
Speakers must also sign up before the meeting and provide their name, address and any organization they represent.
Five Anne Arundel County Council members voted for the resolution; two voted against it.