“He needs to be removed,” said Assembly member Chris Constant.
“He needs to be 86’d,” said Assembly member Pete Petersen, evidently wanting to get rid of the man for good. The Urban Dictionary says that this means he needs to be killed.
Neither Assembly member realized their mics were still hot.
And so he was removed. Dustin Darden, activist and frequent candidate for office, was ejected from the Loussac Library’s Assembly Chambers.
Darden was not only removed, he was taken away in handcuffs by armed police after an outburst at the public podium, in which he blasted the Anchorage Assembly for not honoring the wishes of the public concerning economic sanctions on businesses.
Darden has been a participant at Assembly meetings for many years. He has never cussed while at the podium. He has never gotten violent. When the mask requirement was enacted in the chambers, he simply wore a cardboard box over his head in protest.
Darden is active as a sponsor of two petitions to recall members of the Assembly.
No one ever remembers him being kicked out, much less in handcuffs. Former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz used to take a time-out and chat with Darden in the back of the room, man-to-man.
But during the dire shutdowns and the new behavior rules the mayor and Assembly have imposed in recent months due to its fear of the COVID virus, Darden has become more strident at times.
On Wednesday night, he was agitated because of the way the Assembly had treated a previous member of the public, who had yielded a portion of her three-minute time to Darden.
Assembly Chair Felix Rivera had lectured the woman about being respectful. Here’s the tape:
Rivera shut the mic off immediately after Darden started yelling from behind the Plexiglas screen that has recently been installed to protect the assembly from the spittle of the public. That triggered Darden.
Darden raised his voice louder. He was shouting, pounding the podium and demanding the Assembly reverse the crushing shutdown orders against the Anchorage business community.
Rivera called security to have Darden removed. And then, as if by magic, the police arrived. They approached Darden, who had taken his seat, and they talked to him. Then Darden rose, put his hands behind his back, and was escorted out the side door.
The government-controlled audio of the meeting was shut off for several minutes while the incident took place. There is no question that Darden was out of order for a public meeting, but did they need to call the police, the members of the audience wondered.
After all, Rivera this summer allowed two men to lie in front of him during an entire meeting. The men were protesting. And Rivera allowed a Black Lives Matter protester to yell profanities at the Assembly in a loud voice this summer, and only thanked the man for his testimony.
But Darden is someone Chair Rivera has no tolerance for.
“Every business owner in Anchorage owes Dustin Darden a thank you. He consistently shows up every single meeting fighting for them when they won’t even show up for themselves,” said Bernadette Wilson, a civic activist who also shows up at meetings and who has organized rallies, and who has also pointed at the Assembly members and yelled at them without being called out of order.
Darden was never booked, and it appears he was not charged either. But the speed that police showed up to haul him out of the Assembly Chambers was impressive to those witnessing the spectacle.
During another section of testimony by the public, Assemblyman Chris Constant also objected to citizen Tim Rooney, who was making fun of the Assembly, as he described the types of themed sandwiches that local restaurants have made in honor of them, such as “Recall Rivera Sandwiches,” and “Curmudgeon Constant Croissants.”