Flint, MI — Public meeting attendees at Flint City Hall could see the immediate return of firearms to council chambers after Thanksgiving break — at least temporarily.

In an ongoing lawsuit alleging Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Flint City Council are violating the Open Meetings Act by designating city hall a “gun-free zone,” 7th Circuit Court Judge Brian S. Pickell granted plaintiffs a preliminary injunction on Nov. 20, 2023.

The preliminary injunction allows people to bring “personal-protection items,” including firearms, to Flint City Council meetings and other open meetings at city hall while the judge works to issue a final decision in the lawsuit.

Pickell denied the plaintiffs’ further ask for permanent injunctive relief in the same court order.

Neeley, who strongly advocated for city hall’s “gun-free zone” designation last month, expressed his upset at the judge’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction request.

“Today’s ruling exceeds a level of disappointment, given the climate of gun violence in our country,” Neeley said in an emailed statement on Nov. 20. “We took a legitimate stance to attempt to keep people safe while engaging with their city government. We have seen horrific acts committed in public spaces. It is beyond disappointing that gun lobbyists can use legal tactics that render helpless our best efforts to protect residents. We look forward to the opportunity to have this lawsuit fully adjudicated to uphold the right of residents to remain safe in public meetings.”

Arthur Woodson, a Flint resident, and one of several plaintiffs in the case, countered Neeley’s statement, claiming that the mayor was the one attempting to “circumvent the law” by trying to “use a court he hadn’t even put in place yet” to deny people’s attendance at public meetings.

(In the city’s Oct. 23 announcement of city hall’s “gun-free zone” designation, a local administrative order prohibiting “weapons and other impermissible items” from the 67th District Court and its “satellite” courts or offices was cited.)

Woodson said that for him, the lawsuit wasn’t so much about guns as it was about the Open Meetings Act.

“He’s trying to make it about guns and it’s not about guns. It’s about the Open Meetings Act,” Woodson stated. “You violated the opening act.”

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

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