Protesters rally against Caddo animal services director, his boss
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Up to two dozen members and supporters of a Shreveport-based animal rescue protested Monday afternoon at Government Plaza, where the Caddo Commission met for a work session. The protests began outside the building and then spilled inside where commissioners are holding a work session.
"We've had enough long ago, but finally finally the rest of the community is seeing what is taking place in this man's life and that he's posting anti-Semitic pictures on the government owned Facebook page. It's just, it's not OK," said Samantha Schuster, the president and founder of Bark-La-Tex rescue.
"It's been going on too long with this director who doesn't care, who doesn't work with rescues," said Schuster.
"I support the rally very peacefully, people have the right to protest this is what government is all about however what I disagree with is some of the signs that want to fire Mr. Harris at this time sometimes we make knee jerk reactions I think we should remain calm," said Michael Williams, a Caddo Parish Commissioner.
Williams, who is facing his own issues with a federal indictment for wire fraud, says the protestors should let the investigation process play out, "Anybody is innocent until proven guilty, in any court of law or any disciplinary action," he said.
"We all make mistakes, it doesn't mean because you make a mistake, you should be rushed to judgment and be fire," Williams said.
City Councilman Willie Bradford was also at the rally to support Harris, "The punishment they are asking for today, does not fit the crime," he said.
Harris is on paid leave since a post on his department's Facebook page (which is unavailable this afternoon) stirred controversy, outrage and complaints. A human resources consulting firm from outside the area is investigating whether parish policy was violated when Harris posted Nazi and Jewish symbols scrawled on a photo of a newspaper clipping of dogs up for adoption. The image was posted with the caption, "How to deal with the difficulties of life."
"What is there to investigate? He admitted to posting the image," said Schuster.
Harris explained that it was hate mail that had been sent to him. He then posted an apology, explaining that it "was accidentally uploaded and posted when I was updating ASMC's Facebook page with adoption photos." Wilson also issued a statement, defending the post as accidental.
Following the rally, the Caddo Commission gave citizens 30 minutes to sound off about the controversy. Several animal advocates told the commission why they think Harris should be removed from his position. A few stood up to support Harris, "He should be allowed to return to work immediately," said a citizen in support of Harris.
North Louisiana Jewish Federation President Curtis Joseph is not calling for Harris' termination, but is requesting he undergo sensitivity training, after sharing the anti-semetic image, "because symbols do have meaning, they often convey connotations that evoke pain among large segments of society," said Joseph.
Matthew Linn joined the conversation by confronting parish administrator Woody Wilson about claims he shows favoritism to Harris because some allege they are family. "To answer that question, no sir, I am not related to anybody in this organization," Wilson said to Linn.
This episode is the latest in what some people, particularly members of the animal rescue community, say is an ongoing problem with Harris' management of the Caddo Animal Services and Mosquito Control and his interactions with the public and animal rescue volunteers.
Previous efforts to force Harris to resign or for Wilson to fire him, including petitions, have failed.
There's no word on how long the third party investigation will take. Several at the meeting requested for the investigation results be made public, once the results are ready.
The Caddo Parish Animal Services Facebook page has been taken down. We're told the page will be back up once they put together a social media policy, that all employees are aware of.
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