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Man cuffed, taken from Duluth School Board meeting

A man was handcuffed and escorted out of the Duluth School Board meeting Tuesday night after he refused to leave the podium.

Loren Martell, an outspoken opponent of the Red Plan, was escorted out of the building by a Duluth police officer but was not arrested. During his three minutes of public comment, Martell began to speak about board Chairman Tim Grover in a way that Grover deemed a personal attack.

"We don't tolerate that any more than any body of government does," Grover said after the meeting. "The chair has an obligation to maintain decorum of the meeting."

Martell, who has veered into passionate comments about his opposition of the Red Plan and Grover at several meetings, said he wanted to read aloud statements made by Grover in the News Tribune in 2007 regarding his criticism of the Red Plan and his support for a less costly facilities plan -- opinions he used in his campaign, Martell said.

Grover has said he decided to participate in shaping the Red Plan instead of obstructing it when it became clear that it had enough support to move ahead with or without him.

During Tuesday's meeting, Martell spoke about Plan B, an alternate building plan that will be on the Nov. 2 ballot, before mentioning Grover. When he started talking about Grover's previous opposition to the Red Plan, Grover asked him to leave the podium for making a personal attack. Martell refused to leave, and Grover cut off Martell's microphone feed. Martell continued to speak, so Grover asked the police officer on duty to

escort Martell out. Martell refused the police officer's requests to leave, and he was handcuffed. Grover then called a recess.

During a July board meeting, Grover cut off Martell's microphone feed for the same reason. No police officer was on duty during that meeting, Grover said, or else he would have asked for an escort then when Martell refused to leave the podium. Martell's microphone feed also was cut off during the September meeting, again for the same reason, but Martell left the podium.

"We gave a lot of people a lot of latitude early in the year," Grover said. "We're trying to tighten up on that because it's not appropriate in public meetings. Things can be said anywhere else. We're not trying to stifle public expression."

Martell, who was told by the police officer he would be charged with trespass of a public meeting, said he didn't think he did anything wrong by reminding the board of statements Grover made in opposition to the Red Plan.

"Those statements were made on the public record, and I don't believe he has the right to censor them from a public meeting," Martell said. "It wasn't a personal attack. He's trying to blur the line between what he said on the record and a personal attack."

Grover said he rarely has to ask anyone to leave the podium, and has never before had a speaker escorted out by police.