QUARTZSITE - The mayor called a Town Council meeting, but five of the six council members didn't show up.
So the mayor denounced them as cowards.
The town manager was inexplicably absent.
Several police officers attended the meeting in May to read a statement asking that the police chief be investigated. They alleged abuse of authority, including the arrests of numerous political enemies.
They never got a chance to speak, however, because the building inspector who recently had been promoted to assistant town manager suddenly made an announcement:
"City Hall is closed, and this meeting is over."
About 120 concerned Quartzsite residents, as colorful and raucous as a "Jerry Springer Show" audience, were brusquely ushered outside under threat of arrest.
Such scenes are becoming commonplace in Quartzsite, "The Rock Capital of the World," where the old saying "you can't fight city hall" is being severely tested.
In the past two weeks, more than 85,000 people have watched a YouTube video showing a local newspaper publisher handcuffed and hauled out of the council chambers as she talked about free speech. Council members, who said they received death threats, convened a secret meeting and declared a state of emergency. The mayor and other critics condemned those moves as illegal and pleaded for state investigators to intercede.
But long before the video went viral and the media trained a spotlight on Quartzsite, town government here was already helter-skelter.