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Man Escorted from Cobb Commissioners Meeting

Fernando Wise was removed after refusing to give his name during a public hearing.

A Cobb County man was released after being escorted from the Board of Commissioner's meeting Tuesday night in handcuffs when he refused to give his name during a public hearing.

"There is nothing in the first amendment requiring me to give my name to speak," Fernando Wise said.

Chairman Tim Lee, who asked Cobb County police officers to remove Wise from the meeting room, said there are processes and procedures in place that must be followed.

"I apologize it has to come to this, but we must be consistent," he said.

Members of the standing room only crowd yelled, "Let him go!" as Wise was escorted from the room.

In the foyer, residents in favor of allowing backyard poultry in Cobb County - of which Wise's father, Lamar, is a member - gathered, upset to not know what had happened to Fernando Wise.

"You're not regulated by the first amendment to give your name," Margarita Szechenya said. "He's fighting for our constitutional rights. We don't have to give our names when speaking."

Lamar Wise, whose voice choked with tears while he spoke, said Cobb County has an "extremely authoritarian" government and that his son was detained for "denying the authority of Tim Lee."

"I don't kow what they've done with him," Wise said. "I have to find out."

Cobb County Police Officer Chris Ayers said that Fernando Wise, who could have been charged with disruption of a commission meeting, was released to his father's custody with only a warning. Ayers said that Wise was handcuffed for the safety of the others in the meeting room.

"We always give them the chance to leave first," Ayers said. "He kept pulling away from us. We don't know what he might run into."

Lee said that police officers acted appropriately for the situation.

"I regret this had to happen," he said. "If (the officers) felt their safety and the safety of the hundreds of other people here (was in danger) as they escorted him out, I support that."

Besides Wise, a large group of residents attended Tuesday's meeting to speak on one of two subjects - backyard poultry and code changes regarding the employment of illegal immigrants. Residents wanting to own poultry must obtain a special land use permit, which requires applicants to file a permit, submit a plot plan and notify neighbors. County officials have recommended the board reduce the application fee from $1,000 to $150.

Joseph Pond said "the devil is in the details."

"I can pick up a dozen large guard dogs on my way home, but I need permission from the county to get a baby chick?" he said.

Pond said that poultry kept on two acres of property or less should fall under the jurisdiction of animal control.

"Let the individuals, not the government, make the decisions," he said.

Mahmoud Khatib also spoke in favor of residents being allowed to have backyard poultry.

"It's very surprising to me that if I want to own a couple of hens, I have to go through all these hoops," he said. "I can go buy a dog. I can buy a dozen dogs. How many children have chickens mauled? It's a very dangerous animal according to this ordinance."

Ron Sifen with the Cobb County Civic Coalition told the board that homeowners purchase property with certain expectations, one being that their neighbors will not eventually be permitted to keep poultry in their backyards.

"If they have expectations that this is a suburban neighborhood and not going to have any livestock, wildlife, whatever next to them," Sifen said. "They bought their properties with the expectations that they wouldn'th ave certain things next door."

Residents on both sides of the issue of illegal immigrants also addressed the board Tuesday night about IMAGE, the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers. According to the Marietta Daily Journal, IMAGE is a partnership between the federal government and employees in the private sector. The proposed code change would require contractors who do business with the county to apply for federal IMAGE certification.

Lance Lamberton, who opposed IMAGE, said that in recent years the United States, which was a beacon of freedom, has had the mindset that outsiders, especially those with Hispanic surnames, are not welcome.

"What crime have these people committed other than wanting a better life for themselves and their families?" Lamberton said. "I welcome them with open arms."

Eric Herfurth said he 's tired of losing jobs to illegal immigrants.

"We all want to know why we're not protected by our own government and our own country," Herfurth said. "We all know someone who has gone on unemployment because they couldn't get a job in construction. We're trying to better our lives with honest work and using legitimate social security numbers."

Richard Pelligrino, who refuted Herfurth's comments that illegal immigrants are taking jobs that are leaving Americans unemployed, said he will personally help anyone displaced by illegal immigrants get a job, something he said he has offered in the past.

"Not once have I been taken up on that offer," he said. "If you want to work, take me up on it."

Billy Inman, whose only child was killed in a car crash 13 years ago that was caused by an illegal immigrant, said that illegal immigration is a big problem. Inman and his wife, who is in a wheelchair from injuries sustained in that crash, both addressed the board Tuesday night and implored them to approve the IMAGE program.

"This is something that needs to be used to curb this problem because it is a problem," Inman said. 

It all comes down to decisions, he said.

"It's their decision to be here illegally, and it's your decision to (make) the law," Inman said. "I'd do anything if I could get my son back. I'll never be a grandpa. My dreams are shattered. Our government doesn't seem to care about that."

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