UPDATE: Wednesday, August 24, 2016, 10:50 p.m.
PINAC reporter Eric McDonough was arrested Wednesday after entering the city council meeting, then being ordered to leave. He was live streaming that part, but they arrested after he had stepped into the parking lot when he had turned his camera off. It appears they are charging him with disorderly conduct, which is a contempt-of-cop charge. He is currently in jail and should be released Thursday.
And here is another video live streamed where another man named Kim Hill who also been very critical of the city. He was allowed to speak for the allotted three minutes, but then was ordered to leave city property under threat of arrest for trespassing.
It appears that they did not take too kindly to this article. CM
The original story
They give citizens three minutes to address the Homestead City Council at the monthly meeting in South Florida, though I could speak for more than an hour with the dirt I have.
Yet a Homestead cop cut me short last month, shoving me out of council chambers mid-speech, violating the First Amendment and then some.
However, it did not stop there.
Sergeant Garland Wright chased me into the lobby with retaliatory animus, squaring off with me, aggressively pointing, blocking my egress, and threatening my rights.
He also claimed he had not disrespected me, but the video posted at the bottom proves otherwise. The video also shows him violating my First and Fourth Amendment rights while telling me that he was not violating my First Amendment rights.
On Wednesday, I will return to city hall for this month’s council meeting and make another attempt to speak. And to see if they kick me out again.
After all, I had not violated decorum policy the last time.
All I did was address a certain council member who made disparaging remarks about me to another activist a week earlier, telling him that if he had something to say to me, to say it to my face and not behind my back.
But that got me kicked out before I could ask the real question I wanted to ask.
Isolated and Corrupt
Homestead is a small municipality with population of about 64,000 people at the southern tip of Miami-Dade County,more than 40 miles south from downtown Miami.
So it often gets ignored by the State Attorney’s Office and other public corruption watchdogs, allowing city and police officials to sweep myriad crimes under the rug with little effort.
Lately, the city had been getting some news coverage about a Homestead police officer named Anthony Green who has shot six people, killing three people, over the years, including a man last year named Edward “Butch” Foster III.
Although that case is still under investigation, the council have been giving his family conflicting information if he is on active duty or if he is still on administrative leave.
And because myself and a few other activists have not been shy about addressing the council about certain issues, it introduced a decorum policy last year, which gave them the authority to ban residents from speaking, a decision which was covered by The Miami Herald.
The policy states:
Any person making impertinent or slanderous remarks or who becomes boisterous while addressing the council shall be barred from further audience before the council by the Mayor unless permission to continue or again address the council be granted by the majority vote of the council members present.
No clapping applauding heckling or verbal outbursts in support or opposition to a speaker or his or her remarks shall be permitted No signs or placards which may harm or obstruct the view of others shall be allowed in the council chambers Persons exiting the council chambers shall do so quietly.
Mayor Jeff Porter has not formally told me I am not allowed to return to the council, so we’ll see what happens on Wednesday.
Since it was introduced last year, the decorum policy has been loosely enforced.
For example, many activists were barred from bringing in signs, but the companion of a local politician brought in a sign, holding it up as the politician spoke.
Local activist Matthew Oakey often speaks on corruption in the city.
After he spoke last month to repeated applause and a standing ovation, Wright threatened to eject anyone else daring to applaud.
But later that same night, Wright failed to kick out the cops who applauded Mayor Jeff Porter for praising them.
Further, additional rules enacted since moving into the new city hall do not allow people to stand in the aisles, yet nearly the entire police department stood in the back aisle as an intimidating show of force.
But police ordered everybody else, including me, to sit down, although they did allow PINAC publisher Carlos Miller and a local reporter from the South Dade Newsleader to remain standing with their cameras.
However, it is obvious they selectively enforce their policy, promoting positive views while censoring critical ones.
If this months meeting is anything like previous meetings, expect another unmitigated Constitutional disaster, which is not all that rare.
Local activist Kim Hill called out Chief Alexander Rolle for lying at the January meeting, then speaking truth so unpalatable at the February meeting, the entire council walked out as you can see in the second video below.
It was Hill who informed me a week before last month’s meeting that he ran into Councilman Elvis Maldonado at a restaurant, who warned him that if he continued addressing the council in a critical manner, then the council would ignore him as they do to Oakey and me.
I was shocked when hearing this because I had thought Maldonado was the one straight-shooting councilperson, even if he was ethically naive.
Apparently, I was the one who was naive.
Maldonado the only councilperson appearing to genuinely listen, his feigned empathy persuaded me not to speak or write about him, despite uncovering unethical behavior.
Among his indiscretions he developed a pattern of misusing the city’s SUV for personal business despite a monthly travel allowance from the city of almost $1,000 in which he was accused of “double dipping”, and deleting his golfing records from shotzoom.com and golfgame.com, after being questioned for a Miami Herald article.
But I still found it hypocritical when I learned he was only pretending to listen to what I had to say during city council meetings.
I stated the following to him right before I was kicked out, which you can see in the video below beginning after the 3:30 mark.
“Mr. Maldonado, you know, I’d appreciate it, if you got something to say to me, you can come say it to my face, and you don’t have to talk about me behind my back, in public to other people, and I’d really appreciate that…”
I was about to ask about him crashing the SUV when the cop cut me off and kicked me out.
In the video, you will see my tone remains the same throughout the time I was speaking, so I did not become “boisterous,” which would have been a violation of the decorum policy. I was just being honest.
But challenging Maldonado to own up to his words prompted Wright to abandon his post as sergeant at arms to retaliate against me in front of supervisors, council members and witnesses with cameras.
Imagine how he would act if there had been no cameras around?
That classic contempt-of-cop behavior parallels my original story with Homestead cops, which is what sparked this years-long civil rights crusade.
You would think they would have learned by now that I don’t back down.
I will be live streaming from the meeting on my Facebook (James Eric McDonough), probably speaking around 6:30 pm, so make sure you tune in for the action and check back in for the update.
Pertinent city contacts where one may petition for redress:
City of Homestead; phone: (305) 224-4433
Mayor Jeff Porter; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Manager George Gretsas; email: email@example.com.
Homestead Police Department; phone: 305-247-1535
Homestead Chief of Police Alexander Rolle: firstname.lastname@example.org.