The Sam Hall Question

It seems Pensacola City Council President Sam Hall isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to the free-speech debate he sparked when attempting to have Father Nathan Monk removed from the public-comment microphone.

During the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, a number of citizens requested that Hall be removed from his post. While other citizens have made similar requests since the December incident, Monday’s requests were directed at specific council members.

Council members Megan Pratt, Brian Spencer and Sheri Myers were singled out Monday, with citizens asking them to personally take responsibility for bringing the issue up. Only Myers responded to her request.

“I’m going to plan on bringing up some issue on the First Amendment Thursday night,” Myers told members of the public.

Former council president Maren DeWeese said she was “a bit concerned about having further discussion” on the matter. Hall then said he would rather take up the issue during Thursday night’s ‘new business’ section of the meeting.

“I think the citizens have spoken,” DeWeese said to Hall, “and are deeply concerned about what happened, and I would ask, Mr. President, that you consider that.”

Hall’s free-speech problems began after he found several speakers out of order during a Committee of the Whole meeting. When Monk took issue with Hall at the council’s next meeting, the board president ordered police officers to remove him prior to the end of his alloted time. Although Monk was not removed, Myers and Councilman John Jerralds did walk out of the meeting in protest of Hall’s move.

One of the speakers requesting Hall’s ouster Monday night chose to demonstrate his point by reading out 29 words: “Nazi … carpetbagger … wetback … nigger.” The speaker said that although the words “make my blood boil,” they are protected under the First Amendment.

“Any restriction on speech goes against the Constitution of the United States,” the speaker said.

Hall invited the speaker back for the Thursday night meeting.

Today, Councilman Larry B. Johnson said he’s growing tired of the conversation and feels it is distracting the council from more important issues.

“Was there something that happened that shouldn’t have? Sure. But let’s move beyond that” Johnson asked. “I think something happened—the President pulled the trigger a little too quick—but we can move beyond that.”