The protest that wasn't


What if they gave a protest and no one came?

That was generally the scene on Sunday when a public grumble was scheduled across from Alderman Lloyd Holcomb’s church, where Holcomb is pastor.

The protest organizer? Barbara Blunt-Muhammad. And one of the very few participants was, of course, Jack Foster, who was over an hour late to the gathering — which pretty much set the stage for what wasn’t about to happen. The protesters were irritated that Holcomb had had the audacity to vote to uphold the mayor’s decision to fire city collector Albert Ridgell — or rather that he had had the audacity not to vote to overturn the mayor’s decision.

As reporter Michael Lee observed in his story, Blunt-Muhammad said she was “‘waiting for the others to show up’ as 10 a.m. (the start of the protest was set for 9:30 a.m.) came and went.” If it had been a theatrical production, it would have closed after the first night. Let’s just say that no one missed much by not showing up.

There could be various reasons for the lack of a full-throated audience. Perhaps the throngs didn’t think much of pestering a reverend on the day he was doing the Lord’s work front and center. As in there’s a time and place for everything and harassing a man of the cloth on a Sunday was beyond the pale.

Or perhaps the bus loads didn’t think much of the subject matter. If one is counting heads, the mayor was elected easily. Consequently, she did take office with quite the mandate to change the status quo and move Pine Bluff forward. She, like every other mayor before her, is the chief executive within the city and as such, has the latitude to create staffing as she sees fit. We wouldn’t think much of a mayor who pitched employees overboard willy nilly, and while Blunt-Muhammad and Foster and perhaps all one or two who joined them on Sunday believe that Ridgell did not deserve to lose his job, perhaps the remainder of those paying attention believe the mayor has been well-reasoned in her decision to fire the city collector not once but twice.

Or perhaps the masses just aren’t into Blunt-Muhammad anymore. Maybe when the caller ID shows that she is calling, folks suddenly get busy with folding clothes or taking the dog for a walk, preferring to work toward building up the city rather than tearing it down, bicker by bicker.

Dissent is arguably the most noble American political tradition. Well-reasoned and properly executed dissent is often the mechanism through which great social changes are made manifest.

Causes of every stripe, from the most pedestrian to the most eccentric may be freely championed in the public square. Vociferous ranting, stoic silence and all positions in between are acceptable mechanisms of expression. Be it by poem or protest, we laud those who would act upon their convictions for the betterment of humankind.

To be clear, we support Hollingsworth in this matter. After months of pointless prattle regarding the residency requirements for the office of police chief, this same council is largely content to permit Ridgell’s continued residency in Little Rock — as well as suspension of the rules regarding a set schedule for his workplace arrival. So kudos to Alderman Holcomb for inserting some sanity to the council proceedings.

As we have opined before, these goings on at city hall are the dying gasps of an irrelevant passing regime. In the main, we have bigger issues at hand than the complaints of a consistently tardy and otherwise lacking erstwhile city collector. It’s time we act like it.