After several meetings aggravating over the decision, the Isanti City Council officially decided to postpone Isanti’s June street dance until the end of August or early September if the band can accommodate the change in date due to not knowing whether street dances will be allowed by June 20 in the phased reopening of Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Administrator Josi Wood told the council that Phase II, which at the time of the meeting on June 2 was the current phase, outdoor entertainment can be drive-in events only. However, Phase III allows for outdoor concerts and other entertainment with capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements. She also informed the council that vendors needed to know by June 11 to plan for food and beer.
“I would say keep two street dances and cancel the one,” Council Member Paul Bergley said during discussion. “I want to have the street dances, but I don’t think he’ll open it up.”
Council Member Dan Collison pointed out that Phase II started the day before the meeting, and Phase III might not start until August.
Mayor Jeff Johnson agreed, stating cities could be waiting a long time for the governor to make decisions regarding opening back up. “The guy has more food on his plate than he can fit in his stomach, and it looks like he’s a good eater, too,” he said
“I guarantee if he pushes everything out to the end of the year, somebody will shoot him. People are already up in arms,” Council Member Steve Lundeen said. “I mean, all this rioting that was, COVID-19 was a smoldering fire. The death of George Floyd, or whatever it is, that just threw more wood on the fire and just engulfed it. It’s only going to get worse. I think we need to keep hanging on to hope for something.”
Some discussion took place regarding holding the street dance despite the governors orders, which Bergley, Gordon, and Johnson were in favor.
“We will drive (the community) absolutely crazy if we start canceling things. Everything else has been canceled,” Johnson said. “This community has nothing to do, and we are not forcing them to go to this event, we’re just giving them the option to say, if you want to go, go. If you’re scared, wear a mask and go. If you are that scared, stay home and sit on your deck, because I guarantee you can hear it from there and dance with your family and your children.”
Wood reminded the council what the attorney told the council recently. “If we go against the governors order and have a street dance here, a city event, and say that people can come if they want to, the people who enforce that law and at our street dances is Isanti Police, so we would then, I would assume, need to instruct them not to enforce the law at our own event, and I think that’s a liability,” she said.
Isanti Police Chief Travis Muyres explained that it would be a “slippery slope” if the council were to tell its law enforcement officers not to enforce a law. He used the example of a council not agreeing with the 0.08 law for driving while intoxicated, and only wanting to enforce it if a driver were at 0.10.
“We’ll follow with what you’re telling us to do to some extent, but, it’s a slippery slope,” Muyres said. “This is one law here, but you are taking precedence telling law enforcement not to enforce certain laws you don’t deem are important or necessary or factual - whatever it might be. But, what happens if the next council deems a different law is not important or factual or necessary and now you’re telling your police department not to enforce these laws.”
Bergley stated that the council and law enforcement officers took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and asked if the governor is violating constitutional rights with his orders.
Muyres explained that those decisions have to be made through the court system, noting there are laws he’s enforced in his career that were later deemed unconstitutional through the court system.
Collison added that bar owners have attempted to open and been charged with misdemeanors and face civil penalties, noting the council could potentially be charged with a misdemeanor if allowing the street dance to occur when not allowed.
Lundeen brought up the protesting and rioting in the City of Minneapolis and people not being arrested or charged with violating the governor’s orders. “That’s a whole other can of worms, as we can say,” Muyres said. “I’m not going to advise you one way or the other. You guys are the elected body to make decisions. But, just understand where that puts me and my department as far as what we are supposed to do and what you have us in the city to do. You don’t have the police department in your city to arbitrarily decide what laws are important, that’s what the other legislative body of the state does, right? We have a legislative body that decides which laws are important. Granted this is executive law, it’s a little different, but in essence, as law enforcement, we don’t get to decide what laws are important, we have to enforce it.”
“I would hate to make any of your employees uncomfortable, putting them in a situation that could potentially come back on them,” Collison said, with Johnson and other council members agreeing with him.
The decision to postpone the June street dance was a split decision, with Collison, Bergley, Johnson, and Lundeen voting in favor, and Gordon opposed.