Nelson City Council passed a motion at its Dec. 7 meeting authorizing the city manager to ban or suspend individual members of the public from entering city hall.
This follows two incidents in the past few months in which people taking part in demonstrations against vaccine mandates attempted to get into the offices at city hall, Mayor John Dooley told the Nelson Star.
“These people weren’t just walking in,” Dooley said. “They were aggressive and were very loud and threatening, yelling about vaccinations, etc.”
In both cases, police escorted them out of the building, Dooley said, and one man, who had been involved in both incidents, was told he was banned from city hall.
Dooley said some members of city staff were scared and missed work because of the experience.
According to B.C.’s Trespass Act, a person who has been told by the occupier of a property “to leave the premises, or stop engaging in an activity on the premises,” and then doesn’t leave, or returns to the property again, commits an offence under the act and could be arrested.
As the occupier of the property, city council has the authority to ban someone from city hall. At the Dec. 7 meeting, council formally authorized the city manager to take on that responsibility, since council as a group would probably not be able to act quickly in such a circumstance.
“It’s the responsibility of the city manager to make sure that we have a safe work environment,” Dooley said, “and that we can carry on our business, and that the general public has access to city hall.”
If the city manager is not there during an incident, an already-established general chain of command would apply, in which responsibility devolves to the deputy manager, the chief financial officer and the deputy financial officer.
Asked if he has experienced anything like this before as a mayor or councillor, Dooley said that during the public controversy in 2001 about whether Walmart should be allowed to build a new store on what is now known as the Kutenai Landing property, protesters attempted to enter a council meeting through a window from the roof of the building at city hall’s former location.