Charlottesville City Council saw one of its largest turnouts in recent history as dozens of people showed up in support of… and against… Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy. A meeting last night was the first since controversial tweets from Bellamy were outed by local blogger, Jason Kessler. Kessler is calling for Bellamy’s removal from city council but as WMRA’s Sefe Emokpae reports, there are many who would like to see him stay.
JASON KESSLER: My name is Jason Kessler and I am here on behalf of over 900 petitioners to demand that Wes Bellamy be removed from his office as a councilor for the City of Charlottesville.
It was a heated meeting to say the least.
(boos, cheers, jeers)
Calls for Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy to step down from his position.
(“He has told us in his own words his disdain of women, gays and white people. By keeping him on council, you are publicly agreeing with his comments.”)
And calls for him to stay put.
(“We will not drink the poison. We will not be manipulated and we will not be cowed. We stand in solidarity with Mr. Bellamy. We will never allow the alt right to target people of color in Charlottesville.”)
At the heart of the debate…. the discovery of old tweets from the councilman that many have described as racist, misogynistic and homophobic.
KESSLER: Racism is racism and it should be opposed just as strongly when it's done by a black man as when it's done by a white man.
Jason Kessler is the man who dug up the controversial tweets and posted them for the world to see.
KESSLER: What Wes was saying, were feelings. I don't like white people. White women smell like assault charges and deli meat. These aren't things you can debate. These are feelings that introduce a serious bias and undermine his ability to do his job.
But some, like Jen Lucas, disagree.
JEN LUCAS: We have lived so long in a time where people of color have been oppressed and so anytime I see something that looks unfair, I want to speak up and stand up.
Lucas and many others who voiced their opinion at the meeting denounced the calls for Bellamy’s resignation as racial attacks that have no place in Charlottesville.
LUCAS: I think like most people think that what he said years and years ago was not that cool. I'm not impressed with it but I am impressed with who he is now and what he stands for now. Our city has a lot of people of color and he's the only black city councilor and I think it's important that he knows that so many people stand with him.
In a statement to open the meeting, Bellamy apologized for the tweets in his own words, calling them the ignorant thoughts of a man in his twenties with a lot to learn.
WES BELLAMY: I hope that you will judge me for my actions today and not the words I wrote while still growing as a man. I’m sorry that my words caused such pain to so many. They are no longer what I believe and I would give anything to take them back but I can’t. I can only continue to demonstrate through my actions and my words today that I am a changed man.
For Kessler, Bellamy’s apology was not enough and he’s vowed to collect the nearly 600 signatures necessary to challenge his position. The writer, who has been accused of being a White Nationalist, says he’s not racist, but was not afraid to speak out against so-called “reverse racism.”
KESSLER: There're no advocates for white people. There are so many people who advocate for black people and it's a good thing they do but I'm the only one that has the courage to stand up and stand up for white people even though I'm going to be called a racist.
A view not shared by everyone.
LUCAS: The community that supports Wes and progress in terms of equality is larger and I hope that everyone can see that we came here to be heard and we mean it.