Shenandoah, IA (KPTM)- Public benches in Shenandoah, Iowa are the center of a big controversy. People there say they're getting arrested, just for sitting and socializing.
Many said police are harassing them and they've had enough. "It's not right. We pay taxes here, if we can't sit on these corner benches then they need to take the damn things out," Karen Turnbull said.
"This summer we've had some problems with large groups of people that congregate on these benches late at night. And they become unruly and loud and they're yelling at each other, pushing each other around. We've had some fight calls, people jumping in front of traffic…so, when the police department gets called with that we go downtown and ask people to leave," Shenandoah Police Chief Kris Griebert said.
The townspeople say they aren't being a burden, and that it's the police making things difficult.
One man said he was sitting on a bench with his son so he could rest and that he was told keep moving.
"I've gotten thrown over the hood of a car, thrown in handcuffs just because I said I was going to take it up to city council," Nick Gould said.
"I guess that's the first time I've heard of anybody getting slammed over their cars or anything. I've never heard anybody complain or say anything about that to me," Griebert said.
Police said that the rules only apply to the benches surrounding the downtown motel. But what the community says is they've been forced to leave benches blocks away from the motel and they weren't even causing a disruption in the first place.
Even though folks we talked to say there have been several instances of police butting heads with people, police say there is only one documented case they are aware of. It ended with one person being arrested.
"What he doesn't know he can't do much about and when you got eight officers, they don't always interpret things the same way, you know. And maybe some of them need more lessons in public relations," Shenandoah Mayor Richard Hunt said.
"I've never told my officers at any certain time to run people out. I said, ‘if we get a noise complaint and they're disrupting the people sleeping downtown then we have to tell them to move on," Griebert said.
The City council will continue to meet to determine what to do about the benches.
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