City Hall Protest Calls For Mayor's Resignation - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

04/11/03

City Hall Protest Calls For Mayor's Resignation

One city leader calls it a sad day for the City of Gulfport.

Remarks by Mayor Ken Combs sparked a vocal protest on the front steps of City Hall Friday morning.

City leaders and residents are reacting to comments the mayor made to the Sun Herald editorial board, remarks published on the front page of the paper.

In describing the opposition to a controversial shopping center in North Gulfport, the mayor told the paper, "We're dealing with some dumb bastards. I'm not running for re-election so I guess I can say that. None of those people voted for me anyway."

Council member Ella Holmes-Hines and other community leaders organized a news conference and protest at City Hall Friday.

Reaction to the mayor's comments ranged from anger, to dismay, to extreme disappointment.

A crowd of around 100 attended the protest in front of City Hall. While the emotions may vary, the message was quite clear.

The opening invocation was indicative of the feelings.

"Father, we ask that you will let calm heads prevail master, now that the ugly demon of racism has shown its head," prayed the minister on the front step of City Hall.

Protesters say the mayor's remarks were insenstive and racist.

Jimmie Jenkins is president of the Gulfport city council.

"For a public official to make a statement like that, it's not only offensive to me, it should be offensive to everybody who lives in the State of Mississippi, not only Gulfport," said Jenkins.

Resident, Marie Ross, was shocked when she read the morning paper.

"I actually cried. I actually shed tears and cried. I moved back to this Mississippi Coast two years ago from Pennsylvania. There's people in North Gulfport that are highly educated. Everybody that's born in North Gulfport is not a bastard. Maybe he don't know what a bastard is," she said.

Small signs carried strong sentiment. Some labeled the mayor a racist.

Many in the protest crowd said an apology isn't enough. They called on the mayor to resign.

"Someone is out of step today. Someone has forgotten about the dreams of Martin Luther King. Someone has forgotten today that content of character does matter. And I am today asking for the honorable mayor, Ken Combs, to step down," said council member, Ella Holmes-Hines.

A man holding up one of the signs, let the mayor know how he feels.

"We cannot believe that you would make such statements. It's time to go. We ask that you resign today mayor. We voted for you. We was there for you. How could you do this to the citizens of Gulfport?," the protester shouted.

Council member, Billy Hewes, stopped short of calling for Mayor Combs' resignation.

"The mayor just had a tremendous error in judgement in what he said. And in my feeling it's not only a slap in the face to the black and white community, it's a slap in the face to the citizens of Gulfport and the State of Mississippi," said Hewes.

William Martin is a Harrison County supervisor representing district four, which is located within the City of Gulfport.

He said he's disappointed by the remarks.

"An apology should be given whether he resigns or not. Whether or not he still has the ability at this point to lead this city, to bring citizens together, is now in question," said Martin.

Ella Holmes-Hines urged the crowd to keep the pressure on.

"Do not stop these efforts to be a part of Gulfport because of one person that happens to wear the title that he will not wear for very long," she said, as the crowd cheered.

Mayor Ken Combs was not avaiable for comment Friday. He was out of town.  There was also no statement from his City Hall office.

By Steve Phillips

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