Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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City issues statement on public comment standards following disruption at special council meeting

Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
David Goldenberg, the Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest Regional Director, speaks at the Evanston City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 26.

City officials issued a statement Monday reaffirming their stance against “offensive and dangerous rhetoric” and their commitment to an inclusive council meeting environment.

The statement came after several speakers made public comments using antisemitic conspiracy theories and racial slurs at a special City Council meeting Thursday night.

Only one of the speakers attended the meeting in person, wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap featuring the logo of the website GoyimTV. The website is operated by the Goyim Defense League, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as an antisemitic hate group. Other individuals joined the meeting virtually. 

The individuals’ remarks led Mayor Daniel Biss to cut off their microphones on several occasions before ending public comment using City Council’s 45-minute public comment time limit.

The release — signed by Biss, City Manager Luke Stowe, City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza and all nine councilmembers — said the speakers were organized by a national antisemitic hate group and that the city “has no reason to believe” that any of the speakers are Evanston residents.

The city plans to explore legal options to “further protect the community from this type of abuse” while in compliance with the First Amendment and the Open Meetings Act, the release said.

Currently, City Council rules on public participation during meetings do not explicitly address hate speech. According to Section 6.8 of the rules, individuals who make remarks or utter “loud, threatening, personal or abusive language” at city meetings shall be barred from further participation in that meeting at the discretion of the mayor or presiding officer.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, David Goldenberg, the Midwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the organization has tracked a historic high of antisemitic incidents in Illinois and across the country. 

Following two public commenters making antisemitic remarks virtually Monday, Ald. Devon Reid (8th) made a motion to add a special order of business to discuss public comment rules at the March 11 City Council meeting. The motion passed unanimously.

“The folks who participated in public comment on Thursday, they were crooks, they were provocateurs and trolls,” Biss said at the meeting. “But they were also vectors for the most damaging virus that we have experienced as a people. I just think that’s the seriousness with which we have a responsibility to take it.”

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