RICHMOND (CBS SF) - A City Council meeting was brought to a standstill in Richmond on Tuesday night when raucous protesters had to be escorted out by police, a councilman said.
More than a dozen protesters, some shouting through a bullhorn, disrupted the meeting shortly before 7 p.m., less than half an hour after the meeting's scheduled start time, Councilman Tom Butt said.
Council chambers had to be cleared, and the dozens of community members in attendance watched the rest of the meeting on a TV screen in a hallway.
Those who had signed up to speak at the meeting were allowed to come into the chambers a few at a time, Butt said.
The councilman said that, while disruptions at City Council meetings are nothing new, Tuesday night's outbursts were especially rowdy.
"This was taking it to a different level," he said.
Butt said the disruptions seem to be caused by the same group of people, who often target the advocacy group Richmond Progressive Alliance with their criticism.
Butt noted that in recent months, a small number of people have disrupted the meetings with nasty homophobic verbal attacks, sometimes aimed at Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, who is openly gay.
The attacks were partly in response to the city's decision to fly a rainbow flag at City Hall.
"Typically, these people get way out of order and they have to be ejected from the council chambers," he said. "This is a pattern that has gone on for months."
In response to the ongoing outbursts, Richmond's Human Rights and Human Relations Commission earlier this week discussed the possibility of new rules to ban "hate speech" from public meetings.
Butt said the disruptions lengthen council meetings and cause some agenda items to be put off.
"The council has continued to do their job, the city's in good shape and the City Council continues to pass legislation that's effective, it's just frustrating," he said.
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