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Limited by Social Distancing, Citizens Wait in Rain to Voice Concerns at Council Meeting

By Luke Schlauder, Reporter

This week’s Birmingham City Council meeting was interrupted by citizens Tuesday who said they had been waiting outside in the rain for their chance to engage with local leaders.

Social distancing measures limited the meeting to ten people, forcing members of the public to wait outside.

“Y’all have 30 people in the rain, literally coming to speak to the council members, and y’all refuse to hear their voices,” a Birmingham resident said.

The stream of people from several Birmingham neighborhoods made their way past security and into the regularly scheduled public meeting Tuesday, just as the council adjourned.

“I want all my council members to hear us,” one member of the group said. “Are you willing to go outside and speak with those people?”

Council President William Parker then said he would listen to concerns from the crowd.

Parker stepped outside along with several other councilmembers, including Hoyt and O’Quinn, to speak with people. One resident greeted them by saying there were serious issues in the city that needed to be addressed.

“You have a police department budget that’s a hundred million dollars, but you only put down $50,000 for social services?” another resident said. “It’s a damn shame.”

The City of Birmingham tweeted on Monday encouraging citizens to join their “public engagement process” by completing an online survey on transparency and accountability within the Birmingham Police Department.

Earlier in the week Alabama Rally Against Injustice — a group responsible for organizing peaceful protests in Birmingham and Hoover in response to the death of George Floyd — called for the mayor and city council to defund the Birmingham Police Department.

According to the mayor’s fiscal operating budget, the police department cost the city almost $90 million in 2019.

Another resident spoke of the inconsistencies between black and white neighborhoods when it came to public works.

“We write emails and letters,” said another Birmingham resident, “And the trash inundates our streets. That doesn’t happen in Avondale but it happens on Arkadelphia.”

Neighborhood revitalization, involving cleaning up neighborhoods and knocking down vacant houses, has been a priority on Mayor Woodfin’s agenda since taking office in 2017.

Councilor John R. Hilliard then put an end to the comments, chastising security for allowing the citizens into the regularly scheduled public meeting.

“I don’t mind speaking to any group of people that we have, but what we are not going to allow this, but who allowed them to come in here and take over our council meeting?” Hilliard said.

The council meeting ended and a member of the Birmingham Police Department spoke to the group of citizens before they dispersed. The city council will hold another meeting next Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

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Made By Students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham