CHAPEL HILL — Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt briefly recessed tonight’s Town Council meeting after angry protesters jeered a council decision to put off apologies to two journalists detained in the Nov. 13 occupation of the Yates Motor Co. downtown.
Council member Laurin Easthom had proposed apologizing to News & Observer staff writer Katelyn Ferral and freelance journalist Josh Davis, who were handcuffed and told to lie on the ground when police moved in to evict squatters from the vacant car dealership.
“We are not elected to be bureaucrats; we are elected to be leaders of the community,” Easthom said. “The detaining of these reporters is wrong.”
But a majority of council members wanted to wait. They voted to refer to town staff both Easthom’s petition and a citizen’s petition from Chapel Hill resident Jim Neal seeking an independent review of the Nov. 13 incident, in which police officers armed with assault weapons charged seven protesters with misdemeanor breaking and entering. A new police review board is scheduled to meet next month and will also review the incident.
“Gathering information is the most important thing we can do right now,” council member Penny Rich said.
Kleinschmidt assured the packed Town Hall crowd that he sympathized with the goals of Occupy Chapel Hill, in which some of the squatters participate. The building takeover, organized by a group that described itself as “autonomous anti-capitalist occupiers,” was not an Occupy-sanctioned event
“I have a great appreciation for the work Occupy does,” Kleinschmidt told the hecklers. “Maybe some of you don’t know who your mayor is.”
The meeting resumed after about five minutes to consider other matters.