[Pensacola, FL] Things are getting downright nasty in Pensacola City Council politics. So much so that on Friday, a mild-mannered priest was ordered to be removed by police during the middle of his allotted speaking time to address the City Council.
During a designated open comment period, Father Nathan Monk was criticizing the council members (Pensacola City Council President Sam Hall was his main target) for their actions at the Dec. 12 Committee of the Whole meeting.
What happened on Dec. 12? During discussions of the proposed anti-homeless ordinance, several residents (including Monk) spoke out against it, questioning the Christian nature of council members supporting the ordinance.
There were even comparisons to Nazis and the dreaded “Final Solution,” according to a report by Pensacola Digest. Monk’s comments were much less caustic.
Two council members were deeply offended by it all. Hall decided he had heard enough and ordered Police Chief Chip Simmons to remove citizens he deemed “out of order.”
Pensacola City Hall – where all of the political magic happens
Back in front of the Pensacola City Council on Friday, Father Monk revisited the political theater that played out during the Committee of the Whole meeting, telling the council during the open forum that they had no authority to govern the content of someone’s speech using police action.
He suggested that instead, they should look into the city’s actions that would incite a citizen to make such shocking comparisons.
“As Americans, we have the right to redress our government without fear of being arrested,” he said. “Whether or not they’re connecting dots from Hitler to George Wallace to Barney … you should be asking, ‘well what are we doing that’s allowing people to connect those dots?’ It was a sick and gross abuse of power.”
Hall interrupted Monk and told him that his time was up and to sit down.
“No, I have a minute and 12 seconds left,” Monk said, looking at the timer at the speaker’s lectern.
“I’m ruling you out of order,” Hall said.
(L-R) Sherri Myers, John Jerralds and Sam Hall of the Pensacola City Council
Monk refused to leave, feeling that he had done nothing to warrant the charge of being out of order. Hall promptly asked the police to remove him. Monk stayed at the podium until his time was up. He walked out flanked by two officers, who (wisely) never actually touched him.
In protest of Hall’s handling of Monk two council members – John Jerralds and Sherri Myers – stood up and walked out, with Myers making the announcement to those in attendance that, “I am leaving this chamber as you are in violation of the people’s First Amendment right.”
“I will be outside if you want to want to address your grievances to your government,” said Myers before walking out.
The legality of such actions have been the subject of much debate, which has gone national thanks to YouTube (see the videos below). Locals have said the meetings are now governed by “The Law of Sam Hall,” while across the country people have emailed Hall and have let him hear their “displeasure” of his “banana republic” tactics.
Monk has become a national hero while Hall (rightfully, many would say) has the weight of an unhappy world on his shoulders.
Father Monk at Dec. 12 Committee of the Whole meeting
Father Monk addresses the City Council on Friday
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
Pensacola City Council