County Commissioner and presiding officer Burrell Ellis ordered police to remove O'Quinn from the microphone at the Sept. 13 BOC meeting when he would not heed the buzzer or Ellis's instructions to yield the mike.
During the altercation, which Commissioner Henry "Hank" Johnson called a "spectacle," O'Quinn, a retired social studies teacher, was physically restrained by up to three police officers when he resisted — arms flaying and legs kicking.
Ellis and the other commissioners, who watched the turn of events from their perch in the Maloof Auditorium, saw a concerted effort to disrupt the meeting.
"I have never seen such resistance at a BOC meeting," said Ellis, who is in his fifth year on the commission.
"I have never seen that level of disregard. I have seen people who are insistent about talking but they take their seat when requested."
Johnson said he was embarrassed by O'Quinn's behavior.
"The gentleman was totally out of line," Johnson said. "He was acting out and wouldn't stop talking. It was an abuse of public comment time."
O'Quinn, on the other hand, says he was not trying to be disruptive but was merely trying to put in a good word for Grady Hospital where he is a patient.
"I go to the diabetic clinic there and the urology clinic," he said. "I had prostate cancer and it's reoccurring. It's important for me that Grady be there."
But it was his second trip to the podium, and that ran him afoul of the rules.
O'Quinn, who lives in Decatur, had already been to the microphone to talk about the Candler Road Senior Center, which he said was the real reason he attended the meeting and waited four hours for the public comment session.
On that trip, he spoke more than his allotted three minutes, so chairman Ellis, who runs a tight ship, cut him off on the second trip and wouldn't let him speak.
"He flagrantly disobeyed the rules when asked to take a seat," Ellis said Monday. "He cursed at the board, attacked an officer and disrupted the meeting."
As for his part, O'Quinn said he was just trying to speak on a different subject and thought the rules allowed it.
"He was telling me I had already spoken and I couldn't speak again," he said days later, when photographs of his tussle with the police started circulating throughout the community.
O'Quinn said he got excited when the police officer twisted his left arm behind his back and proceeded to push him away from the podium.
"He was handling me," he said. "I thought it was unnecessary roughness. I am a diabetic. I have a heart condition. I am very weak. It is unreasonable to me that they would treat an old person like that. I was no real threat to anybody. The way they treated me you would think I was a terrorist."
O'Quinn says the police officer wrestled him to the floor. Commissioners say he dropped himself to the floor.
At any rate, O'Quinn was not going quietly into the night. Ron Marshall, a veteran of the public comment section, said O'Quinn's breathing became labored and the paramedics were called.
Later, O'Quinn said his arm and his back hurt and he got a carpet burn on his right arm.
Now O'Quinn says he is owed an apology from the board.
"What was it he didn't understand — English," quipped Ellis. "The question is why wouldn't he listen."
Ellis says that even if you are completely ignorant of the rules, the chair is there to guide you through the meeting.
"When the buzzer went off," he said, "and the chair says your time has expired, what did he not understand."
Ellis said people who attend the meeting and follow the rules and the directive of the chairman will have no trouble.
O'Quinn said he was only trying to make comment — not policy.
" If we can't appeal to the people who have governance over us — where are we?," he said
"When I see a government that is against the people who are supporters of government — that scares me. We are not illegal aliens. Limiting my right to speak is the same as limiting my right to vote. It's something that is not fair."