Discord in an Alabama suburb that has seen years of political turmoil has led to the arrest of a 79-year-old woman after a city employee pressed misdemeanor charges alleging disorderly conduct and harassment.
Novilee Williams was arrested at her home in Tarrant and taken to jail Dec. 5, the day after Williams and a city accountant exchanged words during the public comment portion of a Tarrant City Council meeting, AL.com reports.
Video on the city’s Facebook page shows Williams, a frequent critic of Mayor Wayman Newton, arguing with Shayla Myricks, a city accountant. Williams pushed Myricks’ hand away and told the accountant to “turn around honey,” the video shows.
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Myricks filed misdemeanor charges against Williams, according to the police report, which accuses her of “fighting and threatening behavior in a public place.”
Council Member Veronica Bandy Freeman said she believes the arrest was politically motivated.
“There are some rules for some and then there are rules for others,” Freeman said. “I can only go by my experience. When a certain person gets attacked, it is a problem. They went overboard in doing that to Ms. Williams.”
Newton, who wasn’t in the room, said he had nothing to do with the arrest.
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“But you can’t go putting your hands on people,” he said. “I wasn’t there, and she was arrested when she put her hands on the city accountant. It was the city accountant who wanted to press charges against her. I didn’t even know that it had happened until people started calling me.”
It’s the latest upset in the 6,000-resident town just north of Birmingham. Last month Newton tried to suspend the police, only to have the council reinstate him. The mayor sued, asking a judge to block the council from reversing the suspension. Newton is also jousting with council members over their hiring of a city manager to take over many of his duties.
Tommy Bryant, a council member, punched the mayor outside city hall in 2022. Police arrested Bryant, but he was acquitted because a judge determined Newton had used “fighting words” in sexually insulting Bryant’s wife. Bryant, who is white, refused calls to resign in 2021 after using a racial slur to describe Freeman. Bryant said he was publicizing words that Newton, who is the city’s first Black mayor, used to describe Freeman.
Williams criticized Newton during public comment in the Dec. 4 meeting, as she frequently does.
“I believe the mayor is being corrupt,” Williams told the council. “I believe the mayor needs to be charged for something. Something’s got to be done with this man.”
Sitting in front of Williams in the audience, Myricks turned around to speak in defense of the mayor.
“Turn around honey,” Williams shot back.
“If we can’t beat him one way we’ll beat him at the ballot box,” Williams added.
When Myricks again turned in her seat to face Williams, the video shows, Williams touched the accountant’s arm and told her to turn around.
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“Don’t put your hands on me,” Myricks said.
“Honey, go on,” Williams responded. “I’m a citizen of Tarrant, lady, and I have a right to speak, even though you are in the mayor’s corner, I can see that. I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the city council.”
A few minutes later, the city video shows, a Tarrant police officer approached Williams and asked for her driver’s license.
Williams said she has hired a lawyer.
“Everything is well, and I don’t have a grudge against Wayman and that young lady,” Williams told AL.com after her arrest. “I pray for them.”
Myricks did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
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