Rally in support of councilman begins with heated argument
by Cameron Steele
Dec 30, 2011 | 14353 views |  0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston City Councilman Ben Little speaks outside City Hall Friday morning during a rally in Little's support, while Clara Hogan tries to ask him a question. (Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Anniston City Councilman Ben Little speaks outside City Hall Friday morning during a rally in Little's support, while Clara Hogan tries to ask him a question. (Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
A rally in support of Anniston Councilman Ben Little this morning featured less support than it did angry exchanges between the councilman and his supporters and an Anniston woman in attendance.

The conference began in front of City Hall just before 10 a.m. with resident Clara Hogan demanding to know how Little was able to obtain a right-to-assemble permit in just two weeks’ time.

“Can I ask you something, Mr. Little,” Hogan, 41, asked loudly. “You say no special privileges, but how did you organize this press conference in two weeks when it usually takes a month?”

Rather than answering Hogan’s questions, Little walked away from the 20 or so people gathered for the rally and retreated into the City Hall building.

But Hogan chased him down – a group of reporters and cameramen close behind the woman – walking behind Little into the building lobby as she continued to demand the councilman’s attention.

View a video of an argument that took place during the rally

Mayor Gene Robinson and Anniston police Chief Layton McGrady were in the lobby, observing the situation.

Instead of addressing Hogan, Little turned to McGrady and asked him to remove the woman from City Hall, noting that she was directing “harassing” communications at him.

As Hogan yelled from behind him, the councilman stared for a few a seconds at the chief, who made no move to grant Little’s request.

When it was apparent McGrady was not going to listen to Little, the councilman walked away, dodging Hogan.

“You are a coward,” Hogan said as Little escaped into a men’s restroom at City Hall.

After several seconds, Little walked out of the bathroom and back outside to the front of the building, where people were still gathered for the rally.

The press conference commenced as local activist Glen Ray began to speak heatedly, demanding that the city of Anniston issue a formal apology to Little for his recent arrest on a property code violation.

Police arrested the councilman on Dec. 14 after the city code enforcement officer signed a warrant against Little for allegedly failing to maintain several properties owned by his church.

At the morning press conference, Ray and Little both called the charge an indication of corruption within the Police Department and other city departments.

“If they do a councilman like that, what do you think they will do to a normal citizen,” Ray cried.

Little spoke after Ray, but it was difficult to discern his comments as Hogan stood in front of the councilman and continued to badger him.

Little talked of inequality, racism and standing up for citizens’ rights while Hogan in an alternately loud, frustrated and sing-song voice repeated the councilman’s name over and over again.

“I know you can hear me,” Hogan eventually said.

The rally ended not with Little filing a harassment complaint against Hogan but with her filing a miscellaneous incident report against Ray.

As Little wrapped up his speech, the rally once again degenerated into an argument between Hogan, a friend of hers who wished to remain anonymous and Ray.

During that argument, Ray suggested that Hogan and her friend should leave the rally. Then, he said the two women “better leave.”

Hogan and her friend took that as a threat and marched across the street to the Anniston Police Department to make a complaint.

Afterward, Hogan told The Star she only filed a miscellaneous incident report, because she just wanted something in writing but didn’t want to cause major trouble.

“I don’t think anybody deserves to be screamed at and told to leave,” Hogan said.

For his part, McGrady said he didn’t take action when Little told him to remove Hogan from City Hall, because he “didn’t see any reason to do anything.”

McGrady also said he did not plan to file a complaint against Little for giving him, a city employee other than the city manager, a directive.

A state law called the Council-Manager Act prohibits councilmen from giving such orders. Former Councilman John Spain recently was charged with a violation of that law, an arrest that precipitated Spain’s resignation from office.

At the rally, Little said he felt an ambiguous group of city officials were trying to force his resignation, too. He pointed to the arrest on the property code violation and a lawsuit filed against him and Spain by members of the Anniston Fraternal Order of Police.

“The phantom group will not run me out so long as I am here,” Little said. “This city will not be run as a military-police state.”

Contact Star Staff Writer Cameron Steele at 256-235-3562.

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