After a series of tense exchanges between the crowd and Councilman Michael Julian Bond, Council member Liliana Bakhtiari called for a brief recess that seemed to catch almost everyone in the chamber off guard.
“I do not know how to move forward,” Bakhtiari said, stepping down from the dais just before 10 p.m. to speak directly with those in attendance.
If the crowd continued to shout out of turn and criticize council members by name, she said, the Council would clear the chamber, move the meeting to a committee room and call the remaining public speakers one-by-one to offer their comments on the training center.
Bakhtiari said some members had received death threats from training center opponents, and the mood in the room was making them nervous.
“I get that you’re mad with us,” said Bakhtiari, who opposes the training center. “...I just want to find a way to move forward that does not force anyone out of the room.”
After nine hours of public comments, the chamber have become increasingly tense. Opponents have shouted frequently, breaking out in chants, cheers and angry jeers in open defiance of council rules that seek to maintain a polite decorum in the chamber.
Bond has been a frequent target of their ire. After one speaker said that Bond spoke with “disdain” when he made a reference to the activists, he spoke at length about his own history as a civil rights activist and member of the NAACP.
Those in attendance stood and turned their back on him when he spoke.
Police stood on alert when another speaker briefly refused to relinquish the microphone at the end of her allotted time. “Don’t touch her!” one person in the crowd shouted, when an officer turned the mic away from her and urged her to sit down.
After Bakhtiari spoke with the crowd, the meeting resumed. The cheers and clapping continued during the ensuing speakers, but the mood noticeably lightened.