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‘I felt trapped:' Mann explains decision to adjourn public input hearing

Updated: Jun. 19, 2020 at 12:09 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Councilman David Mann explained his decision to adjourn Thursday’s public input hearing on the city’s budget hours before it was scheduled to end.

Mann ended the session at the Duke Energy Convention Center around 7 p.m. after the crowd responded with vitriol to a speaker’s comments.

The speaker, Carl Beckman, a “long-time resident of Cincinnati,” argued Cincinnati Police Department should have more funding, not less, sounding dissent on an issue that has become the central focus of protesters in the city and nation.

As Beckman spoke, the crowd launched into boos. Mann then ended the session, after which the crowd approached the stage and began shouting at the remaining council members.

Police arrived afterwards to escort Mann from the room.

Speaking to FOX19 NOW after the hearing, Mann said he felt “more and more uncomfortable” as things began to break down. He explained he felt “trapped” as people told him he could not leave.

“This went from an emotionally charged evening to close to a mob,” he said. “We had one speaker who spoke in favor of the police, and he was shouted down. I said, ‘Hey listen folks, we are here to listen to each other,’ and then I was shouted down.

“Frankly it seemed to me we lost the purpose of the public hearing. I said, ‘This meeting is adjourned.’ At that point the platform was surrounded by scores of people. At that point I thought this, ‘I don’t want to stay and I don’t feel safe right at the moment.’”

Mann looked at the crowd and thought, “this is not the way this should be,” and, “I’m not going to participate in this framework,” he said.

Asked if he would leave again if he had to do it over, he said, “I don’t think I had any choice frankly.”

Mann continued: “Once the crowd is determined to take over a public meeting, you know, shame on the body that allows that to happen.

“There was a single point of view to be expressed again and again, it was a lot of very vigorous positive response, that’s okay,” he said, referring to the litany of speakers calling for CPD to be defunded. “But we have to be willing to listen to the other side also. That’s what did it for me.

“I’m strongly committed to engagement with the people we serve.”

Council members Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, Greg Landsman, P.G. Sittenfeld and Jeff Pastor remained after Mann left.

The crowd soon regained order, and the remaining council members began listening to them speak, but by 8:30 p.m., most of the crowd had left the convention center for a protest on the plaza outside.

Speaking afterwards on trying to continue the meeting after Mann adjourned it, Kearney told FOX19 NOW: “We don’t need an official quote-unquote meeting to hear the voices of the people of Cincinnati. This was a forum for them to speak, and so we stayed to hear them speak.”

Other council members, however, disagreed with Mann’s decision to leave.

Chris Seelbach fired off several tweets expressing his view and saying he would have continued the meeting.

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