A man from Newton was arrested while he was speaking at a city council meeting Monday, bringing into focus the balancing act between local council rules and First Amendment rights.
Noah Petersen, who describes himself as an activist, tried to use his allocated three minutes to criticize police department actions.
“Defund Newton Police Department,” he began. “They are a violent civil and human rights-violating organization.”
He went on to make accusations involving an unnamed employee at the department, when Mayor Michael Hansen banged the gavel.
“You are out of order, sir!” Hansen said. “Step down!”
Petersen kept speaking, while Hansen ordered him to be escorted out of the chambers. Petersen was put in handcuffs while still at the podium.
“I’m not going to willingly silence myself and give up my three-minute period without being arrested,” Petersen said during an interview Thursday.
A statement from police Chief Rob Burdess said, in part:
“Petersen approached the podium and began speaking in a manner that was deemed to be in violation of the stated rules for citizen participation. Petersen was directed by the mayor to sit down or leave the meeting. Petersen became disruptive and refused several directives by law enforcement to leave the podium as directed. He was subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct and transported to the Jasper County Jail.”
Petersen said he plans to return to the next council meeting, and he also plans to sue the city.
“What’s the First Amendment for if not criticizing the government?” he said. “I think government can handle three minutes of criticism.”
Watch the video below: