On Monday, WDAM reported that the Hattiesburg City Council reached an agreement to reinstate Citizens Forum after a temporary restraining order was filed against the council in Forrest County Chancery Court. Both parties decided the public forum would be reinstated the second week in March.
Rod Woullard, Rev. Kenneth Fairly and NAACP President Clarence Magee filed the emergency petition and it claimed the council placed “unreasonable limitations on speech,” due to decisions affecting taxpayers. An ongoing issue pertaining to taxpayers includes the wastewater project, which is affecting every ward in the city.
The long suspension of Citizens Forum in Hattiesburg left residents in a state of disappointment and confusion toward their fellow city council members for many months.
Many believed the suspension of Citizens Forum was long overdue and some residents would not back down until their First Amendment rights were restored. The council suspended Citizens Forum in 2014 when there were formal personal complaints made by the council.
Before a city council planning session Feb. 2, community members stood outside the council’s room and protested for their right to speak. They held signs reading, “No Christians,” “No values” and “let the people speak.”
“When it comes time for us to speak, we don’t have a podium, a stage a floor or an ear that seems to be concerned about our troubles,” R.A. Goss, Pastor at Plymouth Rock Baptist Church in Hattiesburg said during the protest. “This law took place to rob of us this right. I think it was absolutely the time for us to stand up and declare that enough is enough.”
Council President Kim Bradley (Ward 1) told Fairly the meeting needed to begin, but this did not happen. Fairly kept speaking and the council cancelled the planning session and three councilman left unannounced.
On Feb. 3, the regular council meeting was cancelled because of the same residents that asked for 10 minutes to speak, reported the Hattiesburg American.
“When do we have to beg in this country for the right to address our elected representatives?” said Deborah Delgado, councilwoman of Ward 2. “This is representative is a form of government. You’re going to have to continue the battle.”
Though the reasoning of the opposed council members was vague, Bradley offered no explanation when he interjected Rev. Fairly during his protest speech.
The Hattiesburg American reported that the councilmen met Wednesday, Feb. 4 at a special-called meeting where they were once again encountered by a crowd. Therefore, items on the council’s agenda still have not been addressed.