City Council discusses protest ordinance at Tuesday meeting


The city council discusses a protest ordinance with Dale Dyvig on Tuesday night, Feb. 23. The council approved several motions, along with discussing survey questions.

Alex Connor

The Ames City Council used its meeting to discuss administration issues concerning protest ordinances along with passing several motions.

Student Government President Daniel Breitbarth spoke at the meeting during the public forum section to encourage the City Council to push for students’ opinions on road construction on Lincoln Way.

Breitbarth said that as more construction happens, it is “going to become an ever increasing issue.”

He suggested to the council the possibility of a pedestrian bridge, stating that any option should be explored. And to back his argument, he brought up the recent death of Emmalee Jacobs, who died Dec. 14 on the corner of Lincoln Way.

As enrollment continues to increase, Breitbarth said, “we need to make sure the students’ voices and opinions are heard.”

Administration issues were heavily discussed during the meeting as well, including a discussion of the resident satisfaction survey policy questions, in which the council decided on three components members would like to see more of.

A staff report on protest ordinances was also presented, in which Mark Lambert, assistant city attorney, outlined concerns and research regarding a protest ordinance.

“We have no ordinance,” Lambert said, citing the specific reasons to “obvious First Amendment concerns.”

Ames does not have a specific ordinance for protesting and picketing, a concern that has been recently raised by Ames business-owner Dale Dyvig, of Dyvig’s Pets, who has had his store protested for the past four years.

Members of Bailing Out Benji, a group that actively protests puppy mills and Dyvig’s Pets, were in attendance at the meeting.

Lambert pointed out that while Ames does not have a specific ordinance in place, other ordinances can be used in place to help limit protesters’ abilities, such as the disorderly conduct ordinance, which limits the public from blocking traffic.

Lambert, who reached out to other cities including Des Moines, which limits the number of protesters allowed in the city skywalk buildings, cited two city ordinances that most relate to the situation in Ames, which were Iowa City and Fort Madison.

Before opening the discussion to the public, Mayor Ann Campbell asked council members to keep in mind a specific ordinance was not up for debate. 

Dyvig presented his statement to the council, saying he has had protesters in front of his store attempting to discourage customers from coming in for the past four years, and proposed several ideas he had for the possible protest ordinance.

He suggested that through the ordinance, protesters are not allowed to stand in front of the entrance of the business and are not allowed to have dogs or children under the age of 18 with them. He said protesters should not be allowed to bring lawn chairs to set out either.

Mindi Callison, member of ‘Bailing out Benji,’ later countered, saying the lawn chair was a one-time occurrence, in which a protester had just had hip surgery.

Lauris Olsen, an Ames resident, also presented to the council in opposition to the ordinance, saying the ordinance would infringe on First Amendment rights.

At-large Councilwoman Amber Corrieri said she has been to the store many times, specifically when protesters are there, and has never felt uncomfortable by their presence.

“I hope that our law enforcement, if the protesters violate the law, I hope they cite them,” said Ward 2 Councilman Tim Gartin, adding that protesters should protest freely, stay within their boundaries and exercise their rights.

After the discussion, several hearings were passed, including a 2015-16 concrete pavement improvement on Friley Road, which awarded $317,971.73 to Manatts, Inc. of Ames, which will remove and replace existing concrete street pavements that have deteriorated.

The next meeting will take place 5:30 p.m. March 1.