Brunswick’s Town Council has approved new guidelines aimed at preventing hateful speech during public meetings following the February “Zoom-bombing” incident.

During that Feb. 20 meeting, several unidentified people attending virtually via Zoom, upset over asylum-seeking families that recently moved into Brunswick, used racist and xenophobic rhetoric while expressing opposition to their arrival. At least two of those people used racial slurs.

At Monday night’s meeting, town councilors introduced and unanimously passed an unscheduled agenda item to modify community guidelines and deter hate speech in public comments. The resolution, sponsored by Council Chairperson Abby King and Councilor At-large Nathan MacDonald, takes a firm stance in solidarity with those targeted by the comments and acknowledges Brunswick’s Indigenous and immigrant history.

“We as a council hear you,” King said to the packed council chambers. “We are equally disturbed, and we are extremely committed to making sure that all members of our community feel safe both in these public meetings and outside of these walls.”

Though the council plans to continue working on its public meeting policies regarding hateful and derogatory remarks, the new changes in public comment will affect non-agenda items only. Public comment for these items will be limited to two 30-minute sessions — one at the beginning of the public meeting and one at the end. Speakers will now have a three-minute time limit, though the council encouraged them in Monday’s meeting to keep their comments concise to allow as many people to speak as possible.

The code of conduct will also be strictly enforced, limiting clapping and auditory responses to public commenters. The council will additionally not tolerate hate speech, derogatory statements or intimidation of other speakers. Attendees who violate these guidelines risk losing their chance to comment and may be removed from the meeting.


The council is also considering a Zoom registration system, preventing anonymous users from signing up for comment.

Jason Gould, a Brunswick resident who participated in Monday’s meeting, expressed full support for the resolution.

“While more work needs to be done, I am glad the council did not postpone adopting the resolution in order to get it ‘just right,’ ” said Gould, adding that he was grateful for the council’s intention to continue working on a more comprehensive statement.

The new community guidelines aim to not only prevent derailing and distressing rants in public forum but also to prevent meetings from running long. Non-agenda items, King said, tend to dominate meetings and push planned business items into late hours of the night.

“I don’t think any of us are doing our best work — not councilors, not staff, not audience members — when we’ve been sitting for five hours debating and discussing,” King said. Monday night’s meeting, despite the recent changes, ran for nearly four and a half hours, excluding the executive meeting that took place for about 30 minutes at the beginning of the forum.

Though public comment will be more restricted in session, Brunswick citizens can also attend office hours with councilors and send public comments through email.

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