Updated: May 21, 2020
From Illinois in 2014.
Clark County, Illinois — Sometimes citizens can be so frustrated with county board members they wish someone could just place them under arrest. Well, that is exactly what citizens in Clark County, Illinois did.
In an effort to take back their government from self-serving politicians and bureaucrats, Kraft and Allen established a group called the Edgar County Watchdogs. Through a combination of public pressure, Freedom of Information filings, lawsuits, and media exposure, they have created a system that deeply threatens Illinois’ corrupt, entrenched political establishment. They operate a blog called Illinois Leaks that exposes corruption at the state and local levels. The blog is so popular that, it is trusted more than the local paper.
Public boards are used to facing angry crowds, but most have never encountered what happened at one recent meeting in central Illinois.
In what was one of their most epic displays of political crime-fighting, which was captured on video, Allen and Kraft held the entire Clark County Park District Board under citizen’s arrest on May 13, 2014, for violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act, a Class C misdemeanor.
When asked if there would be public comment, one of the board members said, “I vote no.” Followed by five other board members.
Board attorney, Kate Yargus, could be heard on video saying there would be no public comment that night, and told the board members they were “free to go,” even after Kraft’s citizen’s arrest announcement. She tried to cite statute to Kraft, but before she could finish, he said, “Just sit down, you are making yourself look like a fool.”
Deputies were dispatched to the scene, but instead, Clark County Sheriff, Jerry Parsley, personally responded that night. Parsley said he knew it was a heated situation and felt it would be best if he handled it. He said that Kraft handled the citizen’s arrest responsibly, and the board was definitely in violation of the Open Meetings Act by not allowing the public to speak.
“It’s not that they should have. They’re mandated to,” Parsley said. “The people need to have their voice. It’s not a dictatorship. It’s a democracy.”
The sheriff arrested six of the board members. The seventh board member was not arrested because he voted against the other members. As they were escorted out of the building, the crowd cheered.
The board had previously laughed at the watchdog group, calling them trouble makers; however, the Sheriff and the State Attorney’s Office didn’t see it that way.
Kraft said, “Every citizen, in every state, county, and city, should take note. Make sure their local government officials are working for the people, and not for themselves.”
If your local government is refusing to do what the people want and if they are denying people the right to comment (or holding closed meetings to suppress opposition), AND if there’s a law on the books that makes it clear they’re not allowed to do that, then perhaps a citizens arrest is in order. Find the law they’re breaking, place them under citizens arrest, call the county sheriff, tell them what’s going on and cite the law. It’s happened before and in this insane climate where rights are being violated it needs to happen again.