Paul Greenberg

I was chagrined when I got word at home that there was going to be a protest that morning at the newspaper. A protest against our editorials. It was billed as a News Conference and Call to Action - and I wouldn't be on hand to meet and greet our visitors. Or even offer them a cup of coffee. Shucks. What kind of host am I?

A robust exchange of opinion is what freedom of the press is all about - and I was going to miss it. Talk about crestfallen. It's not every day people care that much about what we have to say.

I thank everybody who turned out for the mass protest, which numbered, by the official crowd estimate, seven. Maybe eight if you count the passerby who stopped to watch. It wasn't exactly Red Square on May Day back in the day. But, hey, it's a start.

Our critics' timing could also have been better. A federal judge had just told the president of Little Rock's school board - Katherine Mitchell - to stop threatening the district's top administrators. We'd warned her about that. So when the court blows the whistle on her, the first response of our critics is to protest Š our editorials.

And what did our visitors have to say? It seems we're guilty of stirring up divisions, hurting the city's image, perpetuating stereotypes, cheating at craps Š OK, I made that last one up. But it's just as probable as finding a nest of racists here on the editorial page of Arkansas' statewide paper.

I just wish the protesters had been as interested in defending the civil rights of a black school superintendent as they were in playing the race card against us.

Instead, they accused us of "race-baiting" and making "racist statements" - preparatory to concluding that we're the ones guilty of name-calling.

Our critics took particular umbrage at some of our more colorful phrases, like Gang of Four. And here I thought that sobriquet a particularly apt one for the four members of the school board who had been planning to hold a little kangaroo court to suspend Roy Brooks, the reform-minded school superintendent. Until that federal judge intervened.

Now the, uh, Faction of Four has given up on trying to suspend the superintendent and has gone straight to termination hearings. Why mess with any intermediate steps? The Little Rock Crisis of '07 must go on.

The protesters accused us at the Democrat-Gazette of holding "race-baiting opinions" (so said one Terence Bolden) and making "racist statements" (according to a lady named Brownie Ledbetter). In short, thoughtcrime and hate speech.

I'm sure Mr. Bolden and Ms. Ledbetter are good people, but I'm unaware of when they won their Pulitzers for standing up for civil rights. I got mine in 1969. Some racist.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.