Thursday, September 13, 2007

Gaming Board: we don't want to hear from citizens

Brief video

Description: Three persons were expelled from a public meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for attempting to speak. The meeting was held September 12, 2007 at the Temple University Student Center. Shown in the video: Casino-Free Philadelphia Coordinator Daniel Hunter, Hallwatch Publisher Ed Goppelt, and CFP Media Guy Karim Olaechea.

Gaming Board: we don't want to hear from citizens
By Ed Goppelt Wednesday, 09/12/07 (1189628093982)

Webmaster's note September 13, 2007--a problem with being a participant in a story is that you miss a lot of the action. This Daily News report, while somewhat condescending in tone, paints a fuller picture of what happened than what I wrote below in the heat of the moment.

I and Daniel Hunter and Karim Olaechea of Casino-Free Philadelphia were forcibly removed after we attempted to speak at today's public meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board at the Temple Student Center.

Casino-Free Philadelphia has produced short video of the incident.

What happened

We wrote the Board last week asking that they set aside an hour for the public to speak about resiting the Foxwoods and SugarHouse casinos. PGCB Chair Mary Colins refused our request yesterday.

Having been refused in writing, we then attempted to speak anyway during the new business section of the meeting. I asked to be permitted to speak under Article 1 Section 20 of the PA Constitution (Right of Petition). Daniel cited the Sunshine Act.

Before I had gotten two sentences out, a black female, 30-40 years of age, grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me out of the meeting hall. As I was being led out, and in response to my questioning, she identified herself as a sworn police officer working for the Civil Affairs unit of the Philadelphia Police Dept.

Temple University Police then escorted us to the street because, they said, we no longer had a legitimate reason for being in the building. We were told it was not public property. The officers told me repeatedly that I was not being detained, but said they wanted us to leave the building.

When we asked the Temple Police who had ordered our expulsion, they said the Civil Affairs officers, raising the question of whether Civil Affairs expelled us on their own initiative, without being ordered by the Gaming Board.

Before the meeting started, PGCB staffers handed out "Rules of Code of Conduct by Individuals at Board Meetings". The rules state that the presiding officer (in this case PGCB Chair Mary Colins) will call individuals to order if they are being "abusive, obscene or otherwise inappropriate" and, if they refuse, then ask them to leave the meeting. We don't believe Colins took either of these two steps.

Prior to entering the Student Center, a man in a suit told us that we would not be permitted to bring signs into the building with us because the signs were attached to sticks. When asked, the man identified himself as the Captain of the TUPD Investigations Unit.

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