DES MOINES, Iowa — Four people were arrested after disrupting the proceedings of the Des Moines City Council meeting Monday evening.
The arrests happened after the council voted to pass consent agenda items, several related to training and equipment funding for the Des Moines Police Department. The items were on the council’s consent agenda, which means the council deems those to be non-controversial and typically routine. However, protesters and one council member requested to remove the items from the consent agenda, in order to be publicly discussed.
Mayor Frank Cownie said Monday that several residents had submitted requests for some of the items to be removed from the consent agenda — all of which concerned funding and grant requests for the police department.
Councilman Josh Mandelbaum made a motion to allow for 30 minutes public comment on those items, but the council voted against it, 4-2.
Despite the objections, the council approved the following items related to law enforcement:
- An application for the Community Policing Development Training Grant to cover the $148,000 cost of de-escalation training.
- An application for the Edward Byrne Memorial JAG grant to fund $155,188 in equipment needs beyond the department’s annual budget.
- The Project Safe Neighborhoods grant for $67,708 to reimburse the department for overtime associated with mid to high level narcotics investigations.
- The purchase of 21 vehicles for the fire, police and public works departments, costing $681,317.
- A proposal to hire Public Works, LLC at a cost of $84,925 to research and identify best practices for data collection for law enforcement.
- A proposal to use $365,000 to update the department’s software licensing, maintenance and support services for its computer-aided dispatch.
After the vote failed, tensions escalated in the chamber, with members of the audience speaking out against the council’s decision.
A woman stood on her chair holding a sign reading “cowards.” Cownie asked her multiple times to step down from the chair or leave the meeting. The woman refused, so the council told police officers present to remove her from the room. She was arrested, along with three other protesters.
Those arrested included:
- Paden Shuemaker, 24, of Des Moines — criminal trespass
- Kathleen Galloway-Menke, 47, of Johnston — interference with official acts
- Jacob Grobe, 42, of Des Moines — interference with official acts
- A juvenile was charged with criminal trespass and then released to parents and referred to juvenile courts
Before the meeting resumed several constituents got into impassioned arguments, yelling expletives at one another. The meeting resumed about ten minutes after the arrests. One constituent even got into a yelling match with Councilman Joe Gatto about what the constituent called the council’s “lack of transparency” regarding the police funding items.
Des Moines City Council meetings have been chaotic and full of protests since they resumed in person in June. The first in-person meeting in more than 15 months due to the pandemic was suspended because of protests.
In another meeting on June 28, one person was arrested and charged with trespass and interference with official acts for reportedly interrupting the meeting and disobeying officers outside the council chambers.
Des Moines residents have been critical of the council for enacting previous restrictions on public speaking rules throughout the past year, arguing they are attempts to suppress public criticism against the council.
EDITOR’S NOTE: this article was updated to reflect more accurate information about what the council voted on. Des Moines City Council did not vote to not allow public comment on the consent agenda items. Instead, it voted to pass the consent agenda items, without public discussion. Council rules state consent agenda items do not require public debate.