Many Mercedes residents barred from attending city commission meeting

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Mercedes police officers handcuffed one woman Tuesday evening and barred many others from entering the town’s city hall for a city commission meeting.

The Monitor, a Rio Grande Valley news organization, reported that dozens of local residents entered the legislative chambers for a meeting at which the commission considered the censure and removal of first-term Commissioner Leonel Benavidez. Dozens more were prevented from entering the building by city police officers.

Benavidez allegedly called Police Chief Dagoberto “Dago” Chavez a “rookie” and has been critical of him, The Monitor reported. 

The website reported that uniformed and plainclothes officers blocked all three entrances into the building, preventing residents and media members from entering.

Inside the building, officers restrained two women and a man, with the younger woman screaming that her mother was being hurt by the officers. That older woman, The Monitor reported, was Velda Garcia, who had been asked by officers to leave a Sept. 3 meeting as she sat quietly recording the proceedings.

Dalia Pena spoke during the public-comment portion of the meeting, then left the room but left her purse behind. She was handcuffed and removed while attempting to re-enter the chamber to retrieve it, the website reported. 

CBS 4 said that their reporter Sydney Hernandez was prevented from entering the building for several minutes and that the local fire marshal said the entrances were blocked to keep the crowd inside from growing beyond the maximum safe occupancy.

City Commissioner Joe Gomez walked out because he said he didn’t want to participate in an illegal meeting that people had been prevented from entering.

“This is not right, because we can not withhold people from attending a public hearing,” Gomez told the TV station.

The meeting was adjourned with no action taken on Benavidez’ status.

While the commission has been looking for a way to get rid of Benavides, residents have begun trying to get rid of much of the commission. CBS 4 reported that locals have started a petition to remove several commissioners, though the report did not specify which ones. 

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