Des Moines City Council suspends in-person meeting due to protests

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines City Council met in person for the first time in 15 months on Monday but was forced to suspend the meeting due to protests.

Protesters took over the chamber, demanding the firing of Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert and City Manager Scott Sanders as well as the defunding of the police department. Protesters were also critical of previous public speaking restrictions put in place by the council.

The council eventually called a ten-minute recess. Activists paused the protest briefly but resumed when the meeting restarted. The council moved forward with voting on agenda items while demonstrators loudly chanted throughout the meeting.

After about an hour into the meeting, the city council voted to recess. The council will finish the meeting virtually at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Mayor Frank Cownie released the following statement on the protests:

It is frustrating and disappointing to see the actions displayed Monday night in our City Council chamber. Because of the disruptive and alarming behavior exhibited toward Council and City staff, we had no choice but to recess our meeting. It will be conducted Wednesday morning at 7:30 via the Zoom network. It is particularly unfortunate that our residents who had business to conduct before Council were unable to do so because of this infringement of their rights.

Mayor Frank Cownie

Monday’s meeting was the first in-person meeting since March 2020. The council implemented new protocols ahead of the meeting. Occupancy in council chambers was limited to 25 members of the public at a time. And those who attended had to pass through a security check and metal detector.

While some of the precautions are in response to the pandemic, Councilman Josh Mandelbaum says the security measures are in response to incidents at other public facilities and have been years in the making.

“We’re doing things that are consistent with other public buildings,” said Mandelbaum, who represents Ward 3. “If you go to the State Capitol or the Judicial Building, they all have security measures at the entrance and this is consistent with that. It’s pretty standard to try and keep the public safe but still maintain accessibility to these buildings.”

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