In the birthplace of Georgia, just down the street from Trustees Garden and Tondee’s Tavern, a battle for basic American Liberty was waged this week. What was supposed to be two simple public hearings with open communication with our elected Savannah City Council became a scene of one of the strongest assertions of Constitutional Civil Liberties the city has seen in recent years.
A Savannah Family Engaged In An Over TWO HOUR Standoff With TEN Law Enforcement & Security Personnel At The Entry Of The Famous Gold-Domed City Hall.
They were completely denied entry for claiming a basic health exemption to the city ‘mask mandate.’ And, it was a critical day for two final public hearings regarding a property tax increase.
The Navy Veteran father, accompanied by his wife and infant son, modeled classy behavior and the best of calm reasoning in order to defend their rights. They displayed the epitome of principled behavior and dialectic reasoning skills in the face of city government control tactics.
The law enforcement, by direct verbal order of the Mayor of Savannah, subjected them to what appears to be the following: Violations of Civil Liberties, Open Discrimination, and Deterrence of Physical Attendance to a State-Mandated Public Hearing. Public hearing are considered ‘open meetings.’
When the family arrived to City Hall on Bay Street at 11am, security informed them of the mask mandate, newly activated on July 26th. TJ, the father, stated that neither he nor his wife were able to wear a mask due to health conditions and showed his Veteran identification. Security refused them entry for over an hour, continuing to call for reinforcement to persuade the family to either don their masks or depart the public premises. This was especially infuriating because their friend, who also asserted the medical exemption, was in the Council Chambers testifying without a mask on at that time. She wore a mask during no part of her visit to City Hall for the morning hearing.
The mandate, dated July 26th states:
“Anyone unable to safely wear a mask or face covering due to age, an underlying health condition, or is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others is exempt from this order.”
It also says:
“Face coverings and masks are not required in the following circumstances: When wearing a face covering or mask causes or aggravates a health condition.”
City police, building security, and the Mayor’s private security were all engaged to deter this family. During this time, the hearing was actively in progress up in the Council Chambers. Friends expected them to arrive in time to testify. However, the Mayor ended the hearing before they could gain entrance to the building.
Determined to speak directly to council, the family went home to rest and then returned again at 2pm for the final hearing before the vote.
However, when they returned to City Hall, the law enforcement team had a different story. They pronounced to all entering the building the that Mayor Johnson had eliminated all exemptions for health reasons. There had been a meeting in between hearings to ensure that everyone had the ‘word’ from the Mayor. All citizens were required to wear a mask to enter the building, and no exempted citizens were permitted. This is directly contrary to not only the Mayor’s own mandate, but also to the orders of Georgia’s Governor Kemp.
The Savannah Freedom Exchange community, which is a redemptive citizen press project of the slave heritage of the Savannah Cotton Exchange, showed out for their second year to speak against another city property tax hike. Last year, they persuaded the all-Democrat council to unanimously roll-back with a diversity of perspectives and strong arguments for reprieve. This year, the city council worked with a higher degree of desperation to garnish the funds necessary for their bloated budget.
The city has refused to cut back spending to reflect the large amount of reduced revenue due to huge tourism losses in 2020.
In spite of this, they still engaged in wasteful spending. One of the more notable is the million dollar COVID Response Team to intimidate the free movement and assembly of citizens under the guise of public safety. However, the actual title given to all 25 of these individuals, some of whom were moved from the police and fire department, was ‘Revenue Investigator’ (aka tax collectors). This information was obtained through the city's human resources department.
The Veteran and his family were not only prevented from speaking in opposition to the rampant fraud, waste, and abuse of the city government, but also received additional abuse themselves. It was unbelievable to experience both the targeted blow to civil liberties, and the tension surrounding the vote on property taxes simultaneously.
The Savannah City Council voted six for the increase and three against. The three council women opposed to the increase presented themselves to citizens in the City Council Chambers with faces unmasked. They heard all the citizens said and engaged with them. The six, who coldly voted for the average raise of nearly 3% in effective property tax, engaged city business behind their Zoom conference screens. Several times, the Mayor even used buttons to mute both citizens and council women who challenged him during the meeting.
What is America if government officials rule by the words of their own mouth apart from the due processes of law? What are human rights if the health concerns of our neighbors prevent them from the normal activities of citizenry? What is our system of government if citizens involvement is only permitted by the whim of the computer controller? To be present and engaged is a basic ethical requirement of the duties of any elected political office.
Isn’t true freedom living without fear?
On August 12th, the fraud, waste, and abuse of Savannah’s city government was dramatically revealed and partially checked. However, the vote on property tax was lost. More citizen engagement is needed… much more.
Editor's note - at the second hearing, all were also prevented from speaking without a mask.
Editor's Correction - Initially we reported the family was 'black'. We have been informed a day later the family is American Indian.