The Laramie City Council will host a special meeting Tuesday to listen to public comments from protesters against police violence and racism still dissatisfied with the city’s response to their calls for reform.
It comes after a tumultuous night Thursday where seven protesters were arrested and five were cited as they clashed with Laramie Police Department officers. The LPD announced on social media earlier that day officers would write citations for anyone obstructing a roadway after a warning.
A confrontation on Grand Avenue near Seventh Street began when a line of police attempted to block protesters marching east on Grand. Several protesters were taken across the street to the sidewalk in front of the Albany County Courthouse where several were handcuffed and others were cited for disorderly conduct. One person was cited for amplified noise.
The decision to no longer tolerate protesters obstructing roadways came down to LPD Chief Dale Stalder, City Manager Janine Jordan, Assistant City Manager Todd Feezer, Mayor Joe Shumway and “two or three” other council members involved in the discussion, Shumway told the Boomerang Saturday.
Police had initially taken a hands off approach to the protesters marching down Grand Avenue between First and 15th streets, but Shumway said the city couldn’t continue to ignore the obstruction.
“No one wants to crack down on protesters, but no one wants to turn a blind eye to people intentionally breaking the law because they think it gives them more visibility,” Shumway said.
The meeting was announced by Shumway on Friday at First Street Plaza in the city’s downtown where protesters gathered for another afternoon of marching. Council’s June 23 meeting — a work session where LDP Chief Dale Stalder gave a presentation about use of force policy, training and oversight — saw around 20 public comments dominated by those critical of city officials and the police.
It was a difficult meeting for council members and city staff, Shumway said, and he expects Tuesday’s meeting will be similar.
“Now they have another layer to be upset about because there were citations,” Shumway said. “But they’re passionate and they have a right to be heard.”
Shumway’s and Jordan’s appearance at the plaza was perhaps something of a preview of Tuesday, as protesters shouted repeatedly, demanding to know whether “coal rollers” who spew black smoke from large trucks on protesters would be cited. Others said they’d recorded complaints with city officials about counter protesters only to be ignored.
Tuesday’s meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. instead of council’s normal regular meeting time of 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. Shumway said it will go until 9:30 p.m. Some protesters outside City Hall on June 23 expressed discontent with the same 9:30 p.m. cutoff, but Shumway said council-members could vote to extend Tuesday’s meeting.
A resolution will be introduced Tuesday authorizing city staff to create and bring to council for its approval a civilian oversight board, a plan for integrating mental health professionals into emergency responses and a plan to increase interactions between police and the public, Councilman Brian Harrington said via text message.
Council-members at the June 23 work session largely expressed interest in moving the discussion about some level of change for policing in Laramie, especially in establishing a citizen oversight board. However, demands to “defund” or ultimately reduce the police presence in Laramie have been rejected by city officials.
An executive session will take place during the meeting to address legislation, but Shumway said he couldn’t elaborate any further on what would be discussed outside of public view.
Council meetings are available via the city’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cityoflaramie. Written public comment can be provided by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The public can call in to listen and provide comment during public comment periods by calling 669-900-9128 and entering meeting identification number 853-814-654. Comments are limited to 3 minutes per person.
It’s up to police how protesters who enter roadways will be handled going forward, Shumway said. The bottom line, he said, is that no one would be arrested for protesting, but violating ordinances with impunity could not be ignored.
“We’ve been doing everything we could to say let’s keep this civil and peaceful, and there was a hope we’d never write any citations,” he said.
Several sources reached out to the Boomerang to say officers did not recite Miranda warnings to protesters that were detained. Miranda warnings include a list of defendants’ rights and their chief function is to ensure a suspect’s statements are admissible in court. Lt. Gwen Smith confirmed no one arrested was read a Miranda warning, but said it wasn’t required of the officers in that situation.
“Miranda rights is a set of instructions that are required to be given to a person taken into custody on suspicion of having committed a criminal act, before he/she can be questioned by police,” Smith wrote in an email. “The protesters were arrested for misdemeanor offenses that occurred in the Officer’s presence. Because the Officers witnessed the offense, there was no need for them to question the arrestees about the crime. The only information they requested was identifying information for the citations, which citizens are required to provide and as such, Miranda rights are not required to ask for that information.”