In an unprecedented move, Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday ended a contentious city council meeting Tuesday night an resumed it behind closed doors, excluding the public from participating. Only media were allowed into meeting.
The decision to recess Tuesday’s meeting to a nearby conference room followed a number of interruptions by police accountability activists and the family of Agustin Gonsalez, who was fatally shot by Hayward police officers in November 2018.
Hayward elected official were scheduled to consider a new council policy that would direct the city manager to ask the state attorney general’s office to investigate incidents when Hayward police officers are involved in fatal use-of-force incidents.
The Gonsalez had voice tepid support for the proposal. At their urging, Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab issued a council referral last June asking for third-party probe of police killings with Gonsalez’s death being the first to be investigated.
But just prior to the start of Tuesday’s meeting, one of the Hayward police officers involved in the Nov. 15, 2018 shooting of Gonsalez, appeared outside the council chambers. Once the police officer, Michael Clark, was identified by some members of the family, they began yelling at him. He then exited City Hall, but his appearance provokes anger among the family. Minutes after Clark left the area, several family were seen crying outside the council chambers.
Disruptions at Hayward council meetings have been common this year as activists have strongly pressed the city officials to initiated a third-party investigation of Gonsalez’s death. Activists and family believes the Hayward Police Department’s investigation, along with another by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, is partial to law enforcement.
In response to the interruptions during council meetings, the city had began citing a state code that prohibits repeated outbursts at public meetings. Halliday has attempted to use the law in the past, but without the follow-through she exhibited Tuesday night. On several occasions, Halliday has called a short recess amid the disruptions and later continued the meeting.
But the level of outrage inside the council chambers Tuesday night seemed to be fueled more by anger. At past meetings, the tenor had a mixture of sadness from public speakers sprinkled with angry outbursts. Some activists screamed at the large number of Hayward police officers and Hayward firefighters who lined the walls of the council chambers and roughly half the available seats.