Woman arrested trying to attend Kenosha County Board meeting amid social distancing orders
KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A 57-year-old woman was arrested after trying to attend a Kenosha County Board meeting Tuesday evening, May 5. The entire incident was caught on camera.
Following social distancing guidelines, the Kenosha County Board is not allowing in-person public attendance of meetings at this time. Interested members can attend meetings virtually or by telephone.
Two supervisors with the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department were assigned to monitor the entry of Board Members into the building. The sheriff's department said the 57-year-old Kenosha woman attempted to board the elevator to the County Board Chambers, when the supervisors realized she was not a member.
Authorities told the woman she was not allowed to attend in-person, but she insisted she was allowed -- refusing to leave the building.
The sheriff's department said the woman, identified as Mary Magdalen Moser, continued to try to gain access to the elevator, reporting she pressed the elevator call button while demanding to enter the meeting.
The supervisors tried to reason with the woman, the sheriff's department said, but she was adamant about getting in. Officials said the woman tried to "brush past" one of the supervisors the fourth time the elevator door opened, and that's when one supervisor took hold of her arm and "guided her away from the elevator and again asked her to leave."
”They started dragging me toward the door and I think I said, please take your hands off of me, I am not creating a disturbance,” said Moser.
Moser says it was her right to be there in person.
”It is essential for citizens to be able to participate in government,” she adds.
The sheriff's department said Moser ignored this, and again tried to board the elevator. In response, both supervisors told the woman she was under arrest. Officials said the woman began to struggle and resisted the attempt to handcuff her. She was then escorted out of the building.
"Lieutenant Beranis and Captain Hallisy showed much restraint during their contact with Moser. She insisted on attending the meeting and attempted to force her way past law enforcement to do so. Her disregard for the orders of law enforcement and her subsequent resisting resulted in her being taken into custody," Kenosha County Sheriff's Department said in a news release.
Moser says she was there to voice an opinion on a temporary ordinance.
”An ordinance that will allow them to meet virtually and exclude you know- citizens,” she said.
Kenosha County Board Supervisor, Zach Rodriguez, says Moser was just trying to execute her rights, and the public should not be forced to attend meetings virtually.
”Some people don’t have online access, maybe they're not around a phone or they just wanna come, and they’re willing to take that risk so to speak,” said Rodriguez.
For now people have to submit their public comments through mail or email by 4:30 p.m. on meeting day, but Rodriguez argues the deadline does not give a fair chance for the public to comment.
”Say a certain item appears on the agenda 30 minutes before the meeting and now that deadline’s passed, so if they would like to come in they should still have that opportunity to make sure their voice is heard,” adds Rodriguez.
The woman was issued two county ordinance citation for obstructing an officer and resisting arrest totaling more than $1,500.
”Because I had the temerity as a citizen to want to attend and participate in a county board meeting?” she adds.
Moser was later released. The deputies did not take her to jail. She feels her rights were violated as a citizen, she plans to fight the citations and for her right to attend meetings physically.
”If we’re shutting the door on these residents and arresting them when they try to come through that door, we’ve backed ourselves into a corner that’s gonna be hard for us to get out of,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez says the county board meetings don’t have to be held at its usual spot, he says there’s plenty of options in Kenosha County that would allow for proper social distancing if people decide to attend.