Mobocracy and mayhem: Race-charged mob kills Charlottesville free speech

An angry, race-charged mob shut down Charlottesville’s December 15 City Council meeting.

The trouble commenced during “matters by the public,” where citizens have three minutes to address the council. When John Heyden, an older, white Charlottesville resident began to speak on the topic of factual racial dialogue, moans, whoops, hollers, chants, and cries of “racist” filled the council chambers.

Reading from prepared remarks, Heyden repeatedly was interrupted by the mob so that his allotted time was severely curtailed. Mayor Satyendra Huja, meekly sought silence from the crowd on occasion, but his impotent requests were ignored by an increasingly agitated horde.

As Heyden’s three minutes expired, Councilor Kristin Szakos urged to Mayor to suspend the speaker, noting that his time was up. Huja complied and ordered Mr. Heyden to stop—this despite the fact that Charlottesville City Council speakers routinely exceed their time without reprimand.

Instead, the speaker insisted that he would not leave the dais until he was permitted to finish. Encouraged by Szakos’ support, the crowd descended into preturbation. Mayor Huja, Szakos, and Clerk of Council Paige Rice concurrently hailed the police officer on duty to remove Heyden. Gently, Officer Harvey Finkle escorted a visibly shaken John Heyden back to his seat.

Mr. Heyden, whose natural rights were profoundly abridged, is contemplating legal action.

Councilor Szakos, a community organizer with close ties to Barack Obama, characterized the crowd’s angry, petulant outbursts as, “probably stuff we needed to hear.” She made no reference to the trespass on Mr. Heyden’s rights.

Mayor Satyendra Huja is no stranger to speech discrimination. Here, he not only violated Mr. Heyden through his prostrate administration of the meeting, but he discriminatorily ignored the adopted rules of City Council, which prohibit intimidation, interruption of other speakers, or disruptive behavior. Under such circumstances, the Mayor is bound to the following policy:

Any speaker who violates these Rules for Public Participation will be called to order by the presiding officer. If the remarks or conduct persists the presiding officer shall order the speaker to cease speaking and to be seated. If that order is not heeded the presiding officer shall direct the Sergeant-at-Arms to escort the individual from the meeting room.

The presiding officer may also order the expulsion of any person for a serious violation of these rules, disruptive behavior, or any words or action which incites violence or disorder, subject to appeal to City Council. Any person so expelled shall not be readmitted for the remainder of the meeting from which expelled. [emphasis added]

Several points of inquiry sent to Charlottesville Spokesperson, Miriam Dickler, were not answered. She deferred questions to the Mayor and councilors, none of whom have replied. The Charlottesville Police Department puts responsibility for calling to maintain order squarely on the shoulders of Mayor Huja.

Local media has been largely silent on the event and its dire implications for free speech in Charlottesville.

A spineless mayor, a volatile crowd, duplicitous councilors, and potentially inflammatory topics are a pernicious combination. While mobocracy, mayhem, and Mayor Huja march hand-in-hand down the road to progressive perdition, somewhere, on a little mountain not far from Charlottesville, a founder’s spirit weeps.

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