A councillor facing possible sanction for engaging with protestors outside Liverpool Town Hall claims she is being made a “scapegoat.”
In July, members of Liverpool Council’s sustainable, safe and thriving neighbourhoods committee had to be smuggled out of a side door as dozens of activists gathered outside the historic building to make their voices heard about the implementation of a new plan carving Liverpool up into 13 new areas.
A second demonstration was held outside the Town Hall yesterday as a former Liverpool footballer claimed governments were planning to “bring down everything.”
Cllr Mirna Juarez, Liberal Democrat member for Much Woolton and Hunts Cross, was criticised for advocating for the activists to be allowed to speak at the committee in the summer, and now faces possible disciplinary action after a complaint was made suggesting she “attacked” the chair verbally.
She told a live stream of the demonstrations yesterday evening she was in “serious trouble according to the council” but had done “nothing wrong.”
Demonstrators were situated on opposite sides of Water Street in tense scenes before the meeting of the full Liverpool Council. Banners and placards were held aloft while both sides chanted in the second public gathering over plans by the local authority to implement a new neighbourhood model.
Activists, including former Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert, equipped with banners, sought to air their grievances over widely debunked theories around 15-minute cities and how the new 13 neighbourhood areas across Liverpool would infringe on their civil liberties.
With a beefed-up police presence around the Town Hall and Water Street, campaigners played music and chanted as councillors stood in front of the main door of the building. Banners were held with slogans such as “say no to Liverpool 13 zones,” “climate change is a hoax” and “we do not consent.”
Back in July, as committee members discussed the city’s proposed transport plan, Cllr Juarez addressed why members of the public allowed into the Cunard Building who had been demonstrating beforehand had not been allowed to ask questions. A live stream of yesterday’s protest, Cllr Juarez said she hoped the demonstration went peacefully but claimed she had been blamed for the initial gathering in the summer.
She said, “You’ve seen the backlash I’ve had from the committee that I was supposed to have organised that protest, which I didn’t. Apparently everyone’s going through the footage just because you were asking me questions about other councillors, that it was all my fault.
“Legally I need to get… I’m in serious trouble, apparently, according to the council, but I would say that I’ve done nothing wrong.” Now, Cllr Juarez faces potential sanction for her role in the meeting earlier this summer.
According to documents seen by the LDRS, a complaint alleges Cllr Juarez attacked chair Cllr Joe Hanson for not allowing the permitted individuals to speak and had “a heated discussion with Cllr Harry Doyle whilst the meeting was taking place and your behaviour towards him was angry and aggressive.”
Deputy monitoring officer Karen McIlwaine has determined further action is required on these issues, as there is “sufficient evidence” Cllr Juarez was acting in her capacity as a councillor and she had potentially breached the councillor code of conduct.
As a result, an informal resolution between the Lib Dem member, Dan Fenwick, the council’s monitoring officer and the Lib Dem group whip Malcolm Kelly has been proposed. Should this not be agreed, a formal investigation could be instigated.
Speaking to the LDRS, Cllr Juarez said she was not responsible for the demonstration and wanted to encourage transparency. She said, “I feel like this is a witch hunt against me by the Labour group. I feel totally bullied and by silencing me, they want to get away with not being a transparent council and answerable to the public.
“They’re trying to make me the scapegoat. I’m being accused of being aggressive and hostile.”
Following July’s meeting, the councillor who has served across two stints since 2012, denied supporting some of the more extreme views espoused by the groups. She said: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist but governments and councils need to do more to clarify things so people don’t get carried away with conspiracy theories.
“As I went in, they seemed like quite okay people, they don’t run around causing trouble.”