A group of men accosted Mayor Henry Braun this evening at a public hearing. The men loudly challenged Braun about a matter unrelated to those on the agenda for the meeting.

A group of men accosted Mayor Henry Braun this evening at a public hearing. The men loudly challenged Braun about a matter unrelated to those on the agenda for the meeting.

Police called to Abbotsford council chambers after group accosts mayor

Group of a half-dozen men confronts Mayor Henry Braun at public hearing about a separate issue.

Police were called to Abbotsford’s city council chambers Monday night after a group of eight men intervened during a public hearing about an apartment building, demanding to speak about another matter and refusing to leave.

Council took the rare step of adjourning the meeting before they and staff retreated to rooms at the back of the chambers. The group left the speaking area and auditorium soon after, but not before one of the men directed a string of insults at the empty mayor’s chair.

Council did not resume their meeting – which was held, as usual, in the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium – for at least another half hour until three police officers arrived in the foyer.

Coun. Dave Loewen later tweeted a photo of his council colleagues gathered in a wide circle back stage.

“It was really out of place and surreal,” said Aird Flavelle, a member of the public who attends every meeting of council. “I feared for council’s safety.”

Mayor Henry Braun called the confrontation a “publicity stunt” and said it was unprecedented even for employees who have worked for the city for decades.

He said the encounter has led the city to review safety policies and procedures for council during meetings.

“We need to be a little more prepared than maybe we were,” he said.

The group came to the microphone in the middle of a public hearing for a proposed apartment building, with one man speaking for a group of people whose houses had allegedly “moved, shifted and cracked.”

RELATED: New Abbotsford transit depot one step closer, despite objections from neighbours

RELATED: More info on new transit depot at open house

Braun told the man that he would have to speak about the problem at another time.

“This is a public hearing for an apartment building, and not what your issue is,” Braun said, as around 30 people in the building for the matters at hand looked on. The man and the group lined up behind him didn’t leave the podium, and the tone and volume of the confrontation escalated.

Eventually, Braun directed a clerk to call police, told the man he was “out of order” and adjourned the meeting until the man left the building. Police say one of the men was spoken to, but no arrests were made.

Coun. Patricia Ross later told The News: “We can’t allow the public process to be hijacked in that way because it’s not fair to the folks who braved the cold to come out and waited their turn to respectfully speak to the items on the agenda. While differing opinions are important for us to hear, abusive and disrespectful behaviour like that cannot be tolerated.”

The group had apparently come to say that their homes had been damaged by pile-driving at the transit depot under construction on Gladys Avenue, near Highway 11. McCrimmon Drive residents had raised concerns about the effects of construction when the project had come before council last year.

Braun said the issue is between residents and BC Transit. BC Transit had visited residents before pile-driving began and had taken photos and video of homes where owners had concerns, Braun said, adding that some owners didn’t allow officials to undertake the pre-pile-driving survey.

Braun said BC Transit also measured the vibrations caused by pile-driving near the site and found them to be one-seventh the maximum allowed.

The News has not spoken to the group. The man who confronted Braun had visited The News’ offices last week, and took a business card, but did not follow up on his visit.


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.