Don't protest the protesters

Harrisburg residents have been protesting what they say are landlords with nuisance properties. So what may the city do?

Crack down on protests.

We certainly empathize with Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength when he says it's his job to keep protesters safe. So, when a group of peaceful, well-meaning protesters is moved from an unsafe location -- as was the case at a protest on a street with no sidewalks last week -- Strength and his department have to play the bad guys.

He's got our back. We need to have his.

But we wonder if the answer is a new protest ordinance, as the sheriff is requesting the city draw up. No matter how it's intended, it could be seen as a slap in the face to greet justifiable protests with nothing more than a law restricting protests.

Instead, how about creating fewer reasons for protests? Such as, oh, cracking down on nuisance properties?

Instead of focusing on law-abiding good citizens, we wish the city would turn its considerable attention and power toward the properties in question.

Fact is, the sheriff agrees.

Certainly, he plans to do what he can with the manpower and technology at his disposal. But maybe there's more the city could do to help the residents.

We like The Chronicle's Johnny Edwards' suggestion: "Why isn't someone in the city government suggesting a Chronic Nuisance Properties Ordinance cracking down on houses that drag neighborhoods into the proverbial sewer, houses where cars with distant license plates come and go in short trips, where police show up over assaults and domestic violence, where sketchy-looking men loiter in the yard and sketchy-looking women come and go, also in short trips?"

Sheriff Strength not only agrees, but has asked that such an ordinance be drafted.

We think it would be negligent, and wrong, if the city ignores the citizens' concerns over nuisance properties but enacts an ordinance restricting protests in any significant way.

It's time for the Augusta Commission, Mayor Deke Copenhaver and city administrator Fred Russell to hear the citizens and act on their concerns.

People who take a stand deserve more than being told where to stand.

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Sat, 04/29/2017 - 00:28

One-hundred days later