(BCN) – Sparks flew at Tuesday’s City Council meeting in Vallejo, with a perennial gadfly physically carried out by police and a shouting match between Mayor Robert McConnell and Councilmember Hakeem Brown. Council meetings have become increasingly contentious, and Interim City Manager Mike Malone recently implemented metal detectors and other safety measures before each meeting.
Often at issue is the embattled Vallejo Police Department, which has a history of killing suspects, bending its badges to mark shootings, and the infamous so-called “Gone Girl” case in which the Vallejo Police Department erroneously accused the boyfriend of a kidnapping victim of staging a hoax.
All of these matters have made it difficult for the department to secure a new headquarters location on prime waterfront real estate that opponents say would be expensive.
Tuesday’s council meeting discussed possible sites for the relocation of police headquarters, but was marred with discord.
First, there was an audible gasp when resident Ryan Messano took to the lectern during general public comment. Messano had left town for two years but had returned, much to the chagrin of members of the audience and council.
Messano is known for making homophobic and racist comments at public meetings and was previously tossed from a City Council meeting in 2018 for saying that homosexuals were “infesting” the city.
“OK, constitutional rights say he gets the ability to talk to us,” said Mayor Robert McConnell as Messano headed up to the front amid taunts.
After his time expired, McConnell asked Messano to return to his seat, which he refused to do. At that point, the mayor called for the sergeant-at-arms to escort Messano out of the building. Police officers approached Messano and he dropped to his knees, refusing to move, so the police picked him up and carried him out of chambers feet first, to much applause.
But the acrimony didn’t stop there. Councilmember Hakeem Brown got up and left the meeting for approximately 20 minutes without giving a reason, causing a few commenters to note his absence and one going as far as to say he should recuse himself from a vote on the police station project since he was not present for public feedback.
Later in the meeting, when councilmembers were commenting on the police station debate, a member of the audience yelled out something to Brown and he angrily responded that he had been in the bathroom during his absence. Brown has repeatedly gotten up and left council meetings, however, either on Zoom or in person.
While discussing the police headquarters, Brown veered off topic and addressed two previous commenters who had intimated that members of the council were unethical by taking money from the political action committee known as JumpStart Vallejo.
“I’ve heard as I was walking out, people accusing every councilmember up here of taking bribes from Jumpstart. You know they are in debt, right? My son has more money in his piggybank than Jumpstart has ever had, but yet–”
At this, the mayor interrupted and asked Brown to keep the discussion to the police station. Brown loudly responded with, “Point of order. Point of order … You did not stop people from accusing council members of taking bribes, so I am going to speak up. So if you’re not going to speak up, I’m going to speak up about it.”
The mayor said his point was overruled and he should continue with his comments on the police station debate.
“And I’m going to continue to talk,” said Brown. “Like I said…”
A member of the audience parroted what Brown said in a sing-song way, mocking him as he continued. “Like I said…” he said again, with the same audience member again mocking him.
McConnell then angrily yelled “Time out!” and attempted to silence both the person in the audience and Brown, who argued back at him.
“You’re overruled, I’m the chair, you’re out of order!” said the mayor, rising from his seat. “I don’t care what you say,” said Brown. “I’m not gonna stop. You can’t make the police arrest me, what you gonna do?!” “Yes I can,” the mayor said.
“I wish you would. I wish you would, I wish you would do that!” Brown said. “Make the police come get me. Please. Please Do it. You got the balls? Do it.”
Brown continued, “You will not be arresting me tonight. You do not have the power to arrest me.”
The mayor backed off and said he would not have him arrested but that he was disrupting the meeting, “and so is the audience.”
Brown told the mayor to “either control the meeting, or I will speak up for my fellow council members.”
This is not the first time that McConnell and Brown have had shouting matches. Last year, Brown called the mayor a “white supremacist” after he and another member of the body objected to Brown calling out a commission candidate for using the phrase “uppity negro.”
Brown has also lashed out at constituents. On Tuesday, he referred to a “white woman” in the audience and said she was surrounded by “two tokens,” meaning token Black people. Brown has also sent profanity-filled emails to residents who disagreed with him.
McConnell defeated Brown for mayor in 2020. Brown announced earlier this year that he will not be running for re-election to the City Council.
Copyright © 2022 Bay City News, Inc.