During the first of two public hearings on a proposal to allow chickens on property under 2 acres in size, speakers on both sides of the issue provided emotional appeals to the board.
Banks Wise, 25, of Mableton, said he had planned to attend the board meeting just to listen to what others had to say about various code proposals, including the one on chickens.
But then he stepped up to the lectern to address the commissioners during the public comment period, and board chairman Tim Lee asked him to recite his name.
Wise declined. Lee asked several more times for him to give his name before the police officers escorted him out of the board room, handcuffed him and took him to a lobby elevator.
“The gentlemen was not following the rules of the commission,” Lee said. “I asked him multiple times. He did not, so the officers removed him.”
Lee said he regretted the incident and that it was not something that had occurred before during his tenure as chairman. Lee said once speakers ignore his request, the decision is then up to police as to how to proceed.
“That’s a judgment up to the police officers who are charged with doing what they need to do,” Lee said. “That is their own personal decision. If they felt that their own personal decision and the safety of the other hundred here that was required that he left the room, then I have to support the police officers decision. My understanding is he’s been since released with a warning.”
Wise said two things prompted him to speak to commissioners. One was a comment by a previous public speaker opposed to a code change for chickens. That speaker, Ron Sifen of Vinings, argued that homeowners had certain expectations with the zoning laws in place when they bought their homes. To allow chickens in their neighborhood was, therefore, wrong.
Wise said he wanted to argue that just because a law is on the books, it doesn’t make it constitutional.
“I’m saying that being able to have a chicken was always right. There was just at some point a very bad law,” Wise said.
Another point that bothered him was that Lee demanded that each speaker give his or her name.
“On two times people spoke, and Tim Lee interrupted them and asked them for their names, and the way the government uses that kind of force, it seemed very forceful and as I was trying to explain to Tim Lee while I was talking to him that I would have given my name, I had no problem with it, but I wanted them to know you shouldn’t have to, and I just wanted to say that peacefully. I just thought that that needed to be said,” Wise said.
Lee has a different view.
“We have a consistent policy that we know who’s speaking to us. That’s been part of the rules for decades. We need to be consistent,” Lee said.
Wise said he is active in Republican circles and works in real estate.
“It always saddens me when people’s rights are trampled. It has upset some friends of mine. One of their children cried when they saw me being walked out tonight,” he said.
His father, Lamar Wise of Mableton, active in the campaign of state Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw), was in the audience when his son was handcuffed.
“I thank God that he’s safe with us tonight and they were wise enough not to carry through with any further actions against him and released him as peacefully as we could have hoped,” the older Wise said. “I think he felt that he was still speaking with the chairman, who knows him personally. He’s met him months ago and we were all talking in the aisle way directly before the meeting, more than once, at Republican Party events.”
As for whether the younger Wise will take action against the county, he said he first wants to clear his head.
“I think it’s always good to have a thinking period so I’m trying to make decisions right now,” he said.