Former Wake schools chair speaks out about arrests

December 19, 2011 11:50:17 AM PST
A war of words is under way involving the former chairman of the Wake County School board.

In a letter Ron Margiotta sent Sunday to ABC11 and other various news outlets, he explained why he thinks the book should be thrown at several people who were arrested for interrupting a school board meeting earlier this year.

In June, a regularly scheduled meeting came to a grinding halt when the leader of the North Carolina NAACP along with three other protesters - Mary D. Williams, Rev. Nancy Petty and Dr. Timothy B. Tyson - linked hands and began singing, "We shall overcome."

The NAACP had said it was upset when the Wake County school board ended the county's 11-year-old diversity policy in a 5-4 vote a month earlier. Raleigh police officers led the four protestors out of the boardroom and into squad cars outside the school board headquarters after the former board chairman asked the group to leave.

In his letter, Margiotta insisted that his wish to see the four punished was not personal, but criticized their actions.

"Rev. Barber, Mr. Tyson, Ms. Petty along with the others from outside Wake County who were arrested for disrupting and refusing to leave a School Board meeting should be ready to accept the consequences of their actions. A simple slap on the wrist, as suggested by some, is far from appropriate," Margiotta's letter said in part. "The actions of Barber, Tyson, Petty and the others were not simple acts of civil disobedience or disruption. These individuals shut down the public's business, refused to leave the podium, used offensive language, and ultimately crossed security barriers to physically take over the seats of the elected School Board members. The safety of the Board as well as those in the audience was threatened. The extreme and intimidating tactics of Rev. Barber and his cohorts deliberately created chaos and fear. Behavior of this magnitude is unacceptable in any public meeting."

On Facebook Monday, Tyson minced no words in response to the Margiotta's statements.

"I agree with Mr. Margiotta that Wake County should throw the book at me for civil disobedience," Tyson wrote. "I plead guilty to refusing to let Americans for Prosperity dismantle public education. At my sentencing hearing, however, I intend to ask if Margiotta will count as public service the 30 or 40 days I spent walking from door to door in his district this fall, asking voters to put him out of office. Which they did. Which he knows."

"It doesn't bother me, that's political," Margiotta said about the response. "I mean, we know Mr. Tyson. People know myself. I'm certainly not a vindictive person. We have meetings to run, and we just can't let anarchy take over our public meetings."

Margiotta said leaders of the demonstration of support for economic diversity should get real punishment.

"I think that's for a judge to decide, and it could be something as simple as community service. But have to be found guilty of committing, of obstructing public meetings[sic]," he said.

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