Selma City Council examines security measures

Published 10:51 pm Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Selma City Council is preparing to draft a security plan in the wake of protests over a decision to give a one-acre tract of land to chapter 53 of the United Daughters of Confederacy.

On Tuesday, the council voted, 5-4, to give the UDC land in the final step of a settlement deal that also included paying $100,000 to KTK Mining. KTK filed the suit after its building permit for a monument in Old Live Oak Cemetery was revoked.

During the Tuesday meeting, protesters interrupted a council vote by singing and chanting. Police subsequently escorted the protesters out. The protesters continued chanting and began banging on the council doors after exiting the meeting.

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The protest is the most recent in a series of meetings that included vocal opposition to a settlement in the lawsuit.

Council President Corey Bowie said the increasingly rowdy public meetings led him to begin drafting a safety plan for council meetings.

“Basically we just looked at the things that are occurring and decided a safety plan would be beneficial,” Bowie said. “A lot of citizens have come in and been combative and abrasive. We just want to avoid any potential incidents.”

Local radio personality Sherrette Spicer, a member of the protesting group, remained in the council chambers after the group was escorted out of Tuesday’s meeting. Spicer vocally voiced her opposition to the decision after the vote and was also told to leave by police. As she left the chambers, Spicer ran behind the council’s desk and yelled into the audience, likening the decision to the Ku Klux Klan. She was arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental operation, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Bowie said he didn’t feel any imminent danger as Spicer ran behind him but said preventing future, similar incidents is a reason to look into a security plan.

Though he hasn’t finalized the plan, Bowie said one of his ideas is to have someone scan citizens with a metal detector wand at the entrance to the council chambers before meetings.

“We just want to do whatever it takes to provide a more amicable environment,” he said.

Selma Chief of Police William Riley said he would support and enforce any potential city council safety plan, but reminded city officials an increase in officers means an increase in overtime hours for his department.

“As far as a security plan, we are ready to deal with whatever comes up in the council,” Riley said. “We are there to provide law and order. But when we arrest someone for disorderly conduct, we expect government to stand behind us.”

Protesters have complained that the council is denying their right to free speech, resulting in their rowdy behavior. Bowie countered that all public input is reserved for work sessions to streamline meetings.

“It’s nothing out of the norm that we are doing,” he said. “The council meetings are a time to take care of the city’s business. We wanted to be more efficient and moved the public input to the work sessions.”