Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts isn’t the only elected official threatening citizens with arrest for expressing their right to Freedom of Speech. A man in Newton, IA, was arrested during a recent city council meeting for speaking out against the City’s police department.
On Oct. 3, Noah Petersen, 22, called for the city to defund the Newton Police Department, saying it is a “violent, civil and human rights violating organization” that does not make the community safer. He also claimed the department is “pro-domestic abuse” for employing a domestic abuser.
“You are violating the United States Constitution,” Petersen said.
At every Newton council meeting, the mayor allows citizens to address the council on matters included in the consent agenda or a matter that is not on the regular agenda. When recognized by the mayor, each person is given three minutes to speak. Others already spoke before Petersen and were held to the time limit. Petersen was one minute into his comment when Newton Mayor Mike Hansen slammed his gavel and said Petersen was out of order.
In Inglewood, residents are allowed to speak for three minutes on any item on the agenda, including the warrant register, at the top of the meeting. Many speakers use their three minutes to criticize items on the agenda including payments made for Inglewood Police Department where Mayor Butts consistently interrupts the speakers which decreases their speaking time.
During the Oct. 4 meeting Butts summoned officers to remove a resident from the podium for speaking out against Butts allegedly stalking him in Ladera Heights.
“I’m not playing with you,” Butts said after summoning the officer.
Inglewood residents are allowed to speak an additional minute, at the close of the meeting, on any item not on the agenda. Residents have used their minute to criticize the mayor and council’s actions to members of the public and fellow elected officials, the city attorney’s leniency when prosecuting the mayor’s son, and allegations that Mayor Butts was stalking his ex-aide, treasurer, and members of the community at-large. Residents also question the “mental acuity” of Councilman George Dotson who is routinely unable to articulate a full thought without reading notes, and regularly loses his concentration when residents ask him direct questions.
Mayor Butts went so far as to sue a resident for using city council meeting recordings to point out the many lies he tells the public. The City lost and had to pay out in excess of $100,000 to cover legal fees on what the court called a “meritless” lawsuit.
The City is currently entangled in a lawsuit by nine time elected treasurer Wanda Brown who has accused them of misuse of public funds. When she began speaking out about the city’s finances Butts and council voted to remove her from the dais and reduced her monthly salary from nearly $8,000 per month to $1,404.
When she spoke during public comment, alongside residents, Butts would routinely cut her mic too.
Butts is endorsed by various elected officials around Los Angeles County for re-election which residents interpret as “co-signing” his mistreatment of women and the public in order to move transportation related projects that benefit the region and state as they prepare for the 2028 Olympic games.
In turn, Butts has endorsed the Robert Luna campaign for LA County Sheriff through multiple campaign donations that signals he agrees with the mistreatment Luna wielded over minorities in the Long Beach police department, specifically Black officers and the continued violation of the public’s rights as Butts did when he was Chief of Santa Monica.