NARRATIVE OF INCIDENT AT THE LANSDOWNE BOROUGH COUNCIL MEETING ON JULY 21
Written and compiled by Michael Marcavage
[Please note: The following incident occurred at the 7:30 p.m. Lansdowne Borough Council meeting on July 21, 2004 in the presence of all council members, the public, a Comcast television news camera, and other members of the media.]
Yesterday, July 21, I attended the Lansdowne Borough Council meeting concerning a comment made to the Philadelphia Gay News by Kevin Lee, who is the newly-appointed gay activist to the council. Several people spoke during the public comment/question period, in which I then followed. I addressed the council by saying [on camera] "Good Evening. I just wanted to express a couple of things this evening. First being at the direction that the council is leading our community. I recently read a statement by Mr. Lee, the newly appointed council member, in the Philadelphia Gay News. And he had confessed that 'the gay community and the borough council hope this [his appointment] will lead to more gay and lesbian people moving to town.'" I then asked, "I'm just curious if that is the consensus of the council. Is that the desire the council wants to proceed in is leading more gay and lesbian to the town?" Mr. Norman Council, president of the borough council, then stated, "My desire is to have anybody who wants to come to Lansdowne and live to be able to come to Lansdowne and live." I then said I would like to share from the Scripture concerning homosexuality. It was apparent that Mr. Council was angry, as he informed me that "we are not going to have this discussion." I then told him that "I would just like to read the scripture verse, and then I'll sit down." He prevented me from reading from the Bible through interruption, referring to the Scripture I was about to read as being "hate speech" and that I twist Scripture. I then informed him that I will "read it as it is". Mr. Council replied, "I understand, but we're not gonna have it. It's not gonna happen." I told Mr. Council that he may be able to limit my time, but could not change the content of my speech. He said, "Ok well, what I'm going to do is limit your time. It's up!" I then stated, "That's just an unfair practice... You have to stay consistent with the other speakers." Mr. Council continued, "I am not going to allow you to come before this council and use it as a forum to engage in hate speech, it's simply not going to happen." I then said, "Mr. Council the Bible is not hate speech." Mr. Council further insisted that I twist Scripture. I respectfully petitioned him to allow me to proceed as motions were made to adjourn the meeting. The motion to adjourn passed as I began to read from Romans 1, although the council left the room completely, residents of the borough still remained.
Nearing completion of the Scripture reading, Chief Kortan placed his hands on my arms, as I got down on one knee, he then dragged me into the hall. During this time, I asked him, "Am I under arrest?" He said loudly, "You are not under arrest." "Am I breaking the law?" I asked. "The council does not want you here anymore!" he angrily replied. In the hallway, I contested with him and said, "This is a public meeting, and I have the right to speak during the public comment period." He then said, "They don't want to hear from you anymore!" He was extremely angry as I continued to explain why I had a right to be there and to address the council.
While speaking to the angry police chief, council member Elliot Borgam aggressively approached me in the hallway while yelling, and then hit me as hard as he could on my left arm with the back of his semi-clenched hand. I then said, "I was just assaulted by Mr. Borgman." Chief Kortan ordered Mr. Borgman into the room and said, "I saw it." He assured me that Mr. Borgman would be charged with "Disorderly Conduct." Chief Kortan then stated, "We need to talk about it downstairs." During one point, I asked Mr. Kortan if I was being charged with a crime, in which he replied, "No, you are not."
As soon as the elevator door opened, I was grabbed by Mr. Kortan and physically thrown into, and slammed up against the back of the elevator wall. It appeared from my quick glance that everyone in the nearby council meeting room (through the glass window) turned to see what happened, after hearing the loud noises that were created by Mr. Kortan's physical actions against me. While the door was closing, I told Chief Kortan that "this is a violation of my civil rights." Getting right in my face, he angrily replied, "F--k your civil rights!"
Since we were on the second floor, it did not take long to reach the first floor. When the door opened, we exited the elevator and were then in the presence of police dispatcher Jo Pannell, Officer Lawrence Smalley, and an unidentified officer in another hallway who was walking about and occasionally glancing in our direction with heightened curiosity.
At this point, Mr. Kortan became extremely verbally abusive, making all kinds of outlandish statements with the use of profanity. I told him that "we should take a few moments to collect our thoughts." He refused, and continued to yell as loud as he could. I sat down in a nearby chair, but he leaned over and continued to yell in my face. I told him that he was "out of line" and that he needed to "calm down." He continued to yell and use profanity stating that he is a citizen too, and that he can do as he pleases. I said "you are currently acting in the capacity of a police officer" and concluded with "Mr. Kortan, this needs to stop." He then replied, "Don't call me Mr. Kortan! Only my friends call me Mr. Kortan. You are to address me as Chief Kortan!" I stepped further away from him because it appeared that his irrational anger could lead him to more violence. During Chief Kortan's fit of rage, I told him that I never seen such behavior by a police officer before. "It's about time; it should have been done to you a long time ago," he responded.
I then telephoned 911 for advice on the situation. The dispatcher informed me that I need to report the matter to the DA's office, in which they provided a telephone number.
Before leaving, I contacted 911 and asked if would be possible to file a report about what happened. The dispatcher told me that they would have someone come to the borough hall to take my report. The radio call went to Officer Lawrence Smalley who was standing directly in front of me. I provided him with all the information, and he told me that “the report will be available for you tomorrow.” During the final moments of my departure, I asked if charges were going to be brought against Mr. Borgman. Chief Kortan stated, "If you want charges brought against Mr. Borgman, I will do so." I told him "yes."
After leaving Lansdowne Borough Hall, the location of the meeting/incident, I drove to the nearest Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Media, Pennsylvania, and filed a report with Corporal John T. Malone (tel: 484-840-1000).
No charges were brought against me, and according to Chief Kortan, none will be.
Update: Chief Kortan called me the next day stating that he "thought about it overnight and decided to charge you" with "Disrupting Meetings and Procesions" and "Disorderly Conduct."
Final Update: The charges were dropped by the District Attorney's Office due to "insufficient evidence" approx. 7 months later on February 18, 2005.
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