Jim Piggott: 'I was not going to leave' City Council meeting

Jim says he was 'ready to go to jail' when asked to leave chambers

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The events at Jacksonville City Council meeting Tuesday night were quite surprising to me.

There was a full crowd at the meeting and they were a very lively bunch. I knew when they got to the school board tax issue they would be responding, despite repeated efforts by the council president to try to hold back reactions.

When some booed, one council member, Scott Wilson, immediately took action and cleared the chambers. That surprised me, because he didn't first go after those who were responsible.

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This has happened before at council meetings, but the media was always allowed to stay. I was told we had to go. I didn't believe that was right, since City Council was in full session and there were two council members meeting, plus the fact that they were going to vote on an issue.

I believe we have the right to be there and to witness it firsthand. As they were clearing the crowd, I asked a few people their reactions including Sen. Audrey Gibson. 

She was shocked and surprised she was being forced to leave. I then saw the council president and other members behind the door in the green room next to the council chambers. 

I tried speaking with them and kept asking why they were throwing out the media. The sergeant at arms said everyone had to go, including the media. He also said I was holding up the process by interviewing people.

I told him I was not going to leave. I felt I had a right to be there and said they would have to arrest me.

At that point, Wilson walked out and said I could stay as long as I was just reporting on the events. I sat down and eventually, the meeting began again for a discussion about the sales tax.

Eventually, other members of the media were allowed back in and the council took the vote with a few school board members and some staff from the mayor's office on hand.

I was ready to go to jail if that would've been the case because I believe we have a right to be there and to witness what was going on, not just watching it on a monitor from another room.

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