Anchorage Mayor Bronson vetoes Assembly rules regarding silent protest and ‘dangerous or distracting’ items

A bunch of people, several wearing red clothes and a yeellow star of david, at an assembly meeting
Some members of the public used their alloted 3 minutes of testimony to stand silently in protest of mask mandate that was considered in September, 2021. Silent protests are restricted under new rules recently passed by the Assembly, but vetoed by Mayor Dave Bronson. (Wesley Early/AKPM)

Update: 01/28/2022 3:58 p.m.

On Friday, the Anchorage Assembly voted to override the mayor’s veto by a vote of 9 to 2. Members Crystal Kennedy and Jamie Allard, who had opposed the ordinance initially, voted against the override.

Original story:

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson vetoed new rules on public testimony that the Anchorage Assembly passed last week. 

Among the changes the Assembly passed, members of the public who choose to protest silently during their public testimony can’t prevent members from hearing other testimony during the silent protest.

Additionally, the Assembly ruled that the chair can prohibit members from bringing in items that they deem as dangerous or distracting to Assembly meetings. 

In a written statement Wednesday night announcing the veto, Bronson called the rules an infringement on public speech and state laws concerning firearm possession. In his veto, the mayor asserted that the state has the authority to regulate firearms and knives, not municipalities.

Additionally, he wrote, “the freedom to speak includes the freedom not to speak and extends to symbolic acts undertaken to communicate an idea.”

The Assembly likely has the eight votes it needs to override the veto. The ordinance passed at a special meeting January 19 by a vote of 9 to 2, with Eagle River-Chugiak members Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy opposed. 

The Assembly will decide on overriding the veto during a special meeting Friday at 3:30 p.m.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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