Opinion: What about free speech

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Local veterans who served to protect and preserve our freedoms, have not forgotten the day Council Chairman Pat Bell had a veteran removed from the Council Chambers.

Regardless of the Chairman's reasons, in the eyes of many he clearly stepped across the line when he ordered the police officer on duty to remove the vet. He rudely slammed down his gavel, frequently interrupting speakers before they finished their three minutes at the podium.

Chairman Bell removed yet another citizen at the Council’s May 5 meeting.

While pounding his gavel Chairman Bell abruptly ordered the speaker's removal after 2 minutes and 20 seconds at the microphone. His “Gestapo” like behavior is most disruptive. Although the meeting was related to a contentious issue, and there were many speakers who spoke with passion, speaking with passion is not yet a crime in America.

Along with his persistent gaveling of speakers and removal of citizens from meetings, Chairman Bell, during his chairmanship moved the time of regularly scheduled meetings from 7 to 6 p.m. making it difficult for citizens to attend.

TEs interpretation of Council meeting rules forbids appropriate applause after a speaker's comments or addressing an elected official by name while at the podium. They certainly want voters to remember their name come election time, but want no accountability while in office.

Why would our local government want to stifle free speech and the participation of citizens in their government when these rights are protected by our Constitution?

Obviously, they do not respect the rights afforded to all citizens nor do they want to answer to anyone. They are now above the law. Lest they continue to use the authority they have been given to serve the public to silence us, it is time to remove them.

Cheryl Fontenot

Duplessis