(WSVN) - The old line… ‘You can’t fight city hall,’ may be true, but at least you can complain about city hall, right. No you can’t say some South Florida residents — who have been banned from speaking to the Homestead City Council… Why? Here is 7News investigative reporter, Patrick Fraser with the story.
Dr. Eric McDonough’s yard has a lot of fruit trees… and his wall has a lot of academic achievements.
Eric McDonough: “The equivalent of a master’s in organic synthesis and a Ph.D. in organic thermochemistry.”
Living a few miles away, Kim Hill also is a college graduate, and like Eric, is a community activist in Homestead.
Kim Hill: “We began to say, ‘Hey, we would like to have body cameras to protect citizens.'”
Kim is a middle school teacher and began to push the city council to buy body cameras for police after a Homestead officer killed the father of one of his students.
Kim Hill: “We talked about transparency in government by allowing body cameras.”
Eric says he was inspired to become an activist after a Homestead officer ran him off the road. Eric says he then saw the officer while walking in his neighborhood a few days later.
Eric McDonough: “Demands I stop right there. He said if I didn’t stop he would arrest me and show me you don’t ‘F’ with the cops.”
Eric and Kim both began speaking at Homestead City Council meetings, demanding changes in the city. Eric says they were not warmly received.
Eric McDonough: “Mid-speech, Officer Wright, who was acting as Sergeant of Arms during the meeting, approached me and said he needed me to leave.”
Eric says when he showed up at the next city council meeting, the same officer told him he was banned from city hall. Eric said OK and then…
Eric McDonough: “And as I said bye bye, I extended my middle finger.”
After being flipped off, the officer responded.
Eric McDonough: “Officer Wright told me to put my hands behind my back. I asked what I was being arrested for and they told me disorderedly conduct.”
Kim says his verbal complaints about the police and his suggestions to fix the problems led to the same treatment.
Kim Hill: “I was surrounded by four officers and they escorted me on the outside. They told me I was being cited for trespass. How am I trespassing? This is a government building.”
Eric says after he started complaining about the city — accusing them of, among other things, corruption — they passed what they called a decorum ordinance, allowing the commission to ban anyone they feel is boisterous, impertinent or slanderous.
Eric says he doesn’t think he is any of those, but he says the police and politicians do, and he claims they have come after him.
Eric McDonough: “I’ve been arrested three times now. All three times I was arrested had falsified arrest affidavits.”
Eric thinks it’s clear what’s going on.
Eric McDonough: “If anybody comes and says anything negative about the police department or the city, they get retaliated against. They get removed from the meetings.”
Eric has now hired an attorney to fight the city.
Alan Greenstein: “You’re allowed to give the finger, curse at police, as long as you don’t encourage others to cause a disruption.”
Alan Greenstein says a city law can’t ban public people from speaking at council meetings because the the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to speak out.
Alan Greenstein: “They certainly can’t ban you from speaking, which is a violation of his First Amendment rights.”
We wanted to talk to the police and the mayor about Eric and Kim’s complaints. We were told no one would talk because, a spokesman wrote: “This is a pending criminal matter… There is a lot more to this than meets the eye and the city will have more to say when we are able to.”
Meaning as of today, neither man is even allowed into city hall….
Kim Hill: “Today is me, but tomorrow can be the little old lady, tomorrow might be the Hispanic, tomorrow might be the white veteran.”
Banned, the two men say, not because of anything they did, but because Homestead officials didn’t like what they said.
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