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Citizen comments result in ban from Damascus City Hall

Two Damascus residents were banned, albeit it briefly, from Damascus City Hall and all city property after comments they made during a council meeting were taken as threats.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, Oct. 24, issued a letter from the city of Damascus outlining the 6-month no-trespass order banning Judith Landis and John Fewkes from City Hall, “including the surrounding sidewalks, parking lots, city property, etc.”

It also instructs them to call the city manager to conduct any business with city staff.

The ban was issued after an Oct. 15 council meeting, in which Landis chastised the council for disrespecting Mayor Steve Spinnett, accused the new City Manager Greg Baker of being “snowed” by the city councilors, and ended her comment with a quote from “Alice in Wonderland,” saying “Off, off, off with your heads.”

Fewkes, during the same meeting, referred to four boxes that people can use to preserve their freedom: “The soap box, on which I stand tonight,” he said. “The ballot box, which I will certainly exercise next month. The jury box, in which our fellow citizens make determinations. The cartridge box, which is the right of the citizenry to keep and bear arms against a tyrannical and oppressive government.”

In closing he said, “My desire is that the last two boxes would never be needed in this community.”

Landis on Thursday, Nov. 1, filed a tort claim against the city and its city manager, calling the exclusion unconstitutional.

Later that evening, Landis’s attorney, Bruce McCain, received word that the notice was no longer in effect.

“This letter is to inform you that the no trespass notice ... has been lifted effective immediately,” according to a letter from Baker. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Fewkes said he received the same letter saying the no-trespass order was no longer in effect.

“It’s too little, too late,” said Fewkes, a preacher for a home-based Damascus church. He was home with a member of his church when a sheriff’s deputy delivered the no-trespass order.

Council President Diana Helm said the two citizens’ words at the Oct. 15 meeting caused alarm among citizens and city staff who expressed fear for their safety.

One citizen, whose public comment happened to follow Landis’s, expressed dismay at both Landis’s and Fewkes’s comments.

“Does this mean I have to fear for my life?” she asked.

Helm said the direction of citizen comments at the council meetings is going from “somewhat disruptive to outright hostility.”

So after the Oct. 15, meeting, she expressed her concerns about Landis’s and Fewkes’s comments to the city manager, who issued the no-trespass order.



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