Hattiesburg council adjourns after preachers refuse to end protest
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council was called to order and adjourned in 60 seconds Monday when a protest, led by area ministers, continued into the scheduled agenda setting.
"If you're not going to allow us to have the meeting, we will just go home, and we'll come back and do it another time," said council president Kim Bradley to the ministers speaking at the podium, who were not asked to leave by law enforcement in attendance.
The group met one hour before the scheduled council meeting and remained in the chambers, overflowing into the hallway, holding signs that read "UnChristian! Unloving! UnAmerican! We stand for peace!"
Pastors from area churches addressed the remaining two council members after the meeting adjourned to voice concerns over the council's failure to reinstate the citizens forum. Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado and Ward 5 Councilman Henry Naylor, along with Mayor Johnny DuPree, were the only elected council officials to remain in the council chambers until the crowd dismissed.
"We're going to continue to come back until you change this unjust rule," said one man at the podium.
The theme of the speakers' messages was their frustration with not having an official time set aside for citizens to address the council as a whole, after Citizens Forum was put on hold by a vote in 2013 for restructuring.
Mayor DuPree compared the council's failure to bring back the forum to a judge recently telling him to do his job as mayor and present the five remaining nominees for city department heads.
"I've been in court for most of this year about me not doing my job," he said Monday. "Well, they're [council members] not doing theirs."
DuPree refused multiple times to say when he would bring forward the remaining nominees and referred questions to city attorney Charles Lawrence.
Lawrence said he expected the mayor to comply with the judge's order and have the nominees submitted to the council in 21 days.
It was expected that DuPree would submit one nominee for city clerk Monday, but due to the protest, that was not discussed.
The council will have its regular meeting Tuesday, February 2 at 5 p.m.