School board officials in Palm Beach County, Florida ordered the police to arrest and drag out a man for simply standing in the back of a room designated for unmasked individuals during a four-hour meeting over their draconian school mask mandate.
“School police have advised me that people in the unmasked room are standing and refusing to sit. I’m giving you one last chance, sit down in your seats, because those people standing will be removed from the meeting. Sit down in your seats,” school board chair Frank Barbieri commanded.
“Officers you can take anybody out of the meeting that’s refusing to sit in the seats, take them out of the meeting. Officers… The lady in the white and black top, remove her from the meeting, please. The man in the blue shirt, remove him from the meeting. The man in the black shirt, remove him from the meeting. The lady in the blue shirt, sit down, thank you,” Barbieri continued.
A number of people were removed from the meeting, just not as forcibly as Everett Cooper was. They were doing nothing to disrupt the meeting except for standing instead of sitting as they were ordered by Barbieri who interrupted Superintendent Michael J. Burke when he saw people standing in the back of the room and demanded the police remove those he started identifying.
(Video Credit: WPEB CBS12)
“Because I chose to speak, I’m now being arrested,” Cooper, 33, stated in a video that was taken by a bystander. Seven police officers arrested and dragged him away in handcuffs. “Relax, stop resisting,” one of the officers admonished as Cooper just stood there and was obviously not resisting at all.
“My name is Everett Cooper, I am being arrested for standing in the back of the room,” he pronounced as police took him away.
The meeting was ostensibly more about controlling those who are protesting the mandate while attending the meetings than it was about a discussion on the subject. The Palm Beach Post called it a “testing ground for the board’s push to rein in increasingly unruly audiences.”
Previously in May of 2021, a parent named Bryan Rudnick and his attorney Daniel B. Rosenthal demanded via a letter that the school board remove links to Black Lives Matter material that was present on the school district’s website due to its claim that “structural racism” is “antithetical to those of the district and the student body.”
Also in May, parents spoke passionately at a Palm Beach County school board meeting against a mission and policy statement that proclaimed the school board was dedicated to “dismantling structures rooted in white advantage and transforming our system by hearing and elevating underrepresented voices, sharing power, recognizing and eliminating bias, and redistributing resources to provide equitable outcomes.” The board agreed to remove “white advantage” from the statement.
Board member Alexandria Ayala, who has been dubbed by some locally as an “AOC Wannabe” and a tyrant, objected to the removal of the racially charged phrase, asserting that the board shouldn’t be swayed by “disrespectful displays of people who clearly missed the point.”
“We can’t back up when we have some little resistance right out of the gate. We have to do the hard work now of committing to what we said, to what we all agreed to,” declared Ayala.
Fast forward to the current meeting and it becomes evident why Ayala has earned the derision of parents at these meetings. In opening comments, Ayala said, “It has to stop. The lack of decorum is not only disruptive, it sets a dangerous precedent. The culture of our district starts right here. … Protesting is one thing, but threats will not fly here and it has to stop.”
Ayala claimed there have been “dangerous confrontations” and “threats of violence,” both at meetings and on school campuses.
PBCSB police head to no-mask conference room where spectators are watching the school board meeting. One man was escorted out of the room. @WPBF25News @wpbf_angela #covid #mask pic.twitter.com/QrMwsSf28i
— angelarozier (@wpbf_angela) August 25, 2021
However, there was no such thing at this meeting. Just attendees quietly standing in the back of a room in silent defiance of an order to sit down.
Everett Cooper was made an example by school board chair Barbieri and the other members sitting on the board. It was a demonstration of their power and the police were there to cement it. He now faces charges of disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and trespassing.
(Video Credit: 12 News)
Jack Furnari, a national columnist, and the founder of BizPac Review, is a highly respected political strategist in Palm Beach County. He issued a stinging indictment of the heavy-handed actions of the board, “I hope Gov. DeSantis elevates the penalties for school board members disobeying the law to a criminal offense. Let’s lock them up the same way they lock innocent parents up who are trying to defend their children from harm.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order that parents be given the right to opt out of any masking requirement by Florida’s schools. The board is defying that order by the governor, citing pleas from hundreds of parents for stronger mask requirements and after 5,050 students have reportedly been sent home to quarantine.
“The action that the board has taken to date has been within the board’s constitutional authority which is to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of students,” attorney Shawn Bernard stated. “At least 10 school boards have exercised the same constitutional authority and the number of those school boards is climbing.”
(Video Credit: WPEC)
The majority of parents at the school board meeting were opposed to the mask mandate. They argued that the science being touted is inconclusive and that masks are not only uncomfortable, they could also pose a health risk to children. They also pointed out that adopting the mask mandate violated DeSantis’ executive order.
Despite the overwhelming number of attendees objecting to the mask mandate, the board voted to pursue legal action against DeSantis regarding his ban on mask mandates in schools.
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