Embarrassed Duluth City Council Considers Crack Down

There may be hope for the Duluth City Council after all. Days after council members impotently stood by while a mob of masked and screaming protesters shut down a meeting over protective riot gear for cops, the city’s leaders appear to have come to the realization it’s their duty to take charge of public meetings and to maintain order.

But first city leaders want to dust off the rules book on how to conduct oneself in public places, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Council President Noah Hobbs said he is working with the city attorney’s office to propose some changes to the code of conduct rules enforced in council chambers.

He said the prospective rules would focus on “How do we have an open and fair process that is free of intimidation … so that everyone feels comfortable speaking.”

The council’s uncustomary, new assertiveness made the front page above the fold in the paper.

Yet the headline leaves open the possibility local pols could still back down to the thugs that embarrassed them last Monday. The council’s president sounded almost apologetic in suggesting that members of audience meet what used to be commonly accepted standards for behavior.

Hobbs said he hopes to discourage people from wearing masks in council chambers or obstructing the council’s proceedings.

If and when audience members are found to have violated the council code of conduct, Hobbs said they would receive a warning, and if the problem behavior continues a sergeant at arms will escort the offending individual out of the room.

First-term Duluth Mayor Emily Larson also called out hooligans who shout down their political opponents as a threat to self governance.

“I am taking this intentional disruption seriously and will be conducting a deep review of our practices around public meetings to ensure that everyone — all voices — will have an opportunity to be heard. I am not prepared to comment on the specifics of that review at this time, but am committed to those conversations moving forward,” she said.

As of now the ban covers intimidating behavior, obstructive signs, noisemakers and masks, all on display at the notorious meeting this week. The updated code of conduct still needs to be approved by two-thirds of the city council in mid-November, by no means a sure thing.

Even Hobbs remains conflicted, insisting he has no regrets over the city councils’ humiliating performance at its last meeting. After all, anarchists will be anarchists.

“I think there’s no way Monday, given the sensitivity of the topic that everyone was so passionate about and the optics that those protesters or anarchists wanted, there was no way Monday would have gone any different,” he said.