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PHOENIX - Dianne "DD" Barker is fighting for her rights — specifically, the right to perform cartwheels at public meetings.

The Phoenix resident has received a letter from an attorney for the Maricopa Association of Governments demanding that she "immediately cease performing cartwheels at MAG meetings." She has been known to show off her gymnastic skills at the planning agency's regular gatherings.

"You have from time to time suggested that MAG cannot prevent you from performing cartwheels during your comments," the letter states. "That position is incorrect."

MAG officials said they have warned Barker repeatedly over the years not to perform cartwheels because it disrupts the meetings and poses a risk of injury to herself or others.

But Barker, who often speaks out at local government hearings, doesn't plan to stop rolling over without a fight.

This week, Barker fired back with a email claiming MAG's letter "was intimidating, threatening, and defaming." She said she performs cartwheels to demonstrate the health benefits of walking and using public transit.

"No longer could I freely speak/express in such positive conviction, my continuing commitment, and unwavering support for MAG's transportation/air quality duty and directives!" Barker protested in her email.

Youngtown, Ariz., Mayor Michael LeVault, who recently became chairman of MAG's Regional Council, chuckled as he discussed the dispute, saying he had "never experienced anything like" Barker's cartwheel routine at a public meeting before.

"It's not my intention to shut down public comment at all," LeVault said. "It was just really a safety issue, a liability issue for the attorneys."

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