Schenectady City Council to crack down on racist public comments


SCHENECTADY — A string of racist remarks made during the public comment period at City Council meetings in recent weeks has lawmakers seeking to crack down on the offensive language.

The council’s Administrative Efficiency Committee on Monday discussed ways to put an end to individuals making derogatory remarks during the comment period designed to allow residents to voice their concerns about city affairs.

Council members agreed to add language to the public comment rules that would explicitly lay out that racist, homophobic and sexist remarks would not be tolerated and to look into requiring individuals to use their legal name when signing up to speak.

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Plans to create a hand out of the rules were discussed as well as the possibility of barring from meetings for a set time, those individuals who repeatedly violate the rules.

“Clearly, since it has been ongoing and escalating, it is now something that needs to be addressed,” said Council President Marion Porterfield.

The action follows weeks of racist remarks that at times have been directed toward City Council members of color.

The most recent incident came last week when a man identifying himself as “Diablo” began using the word “Negro” to address individuals in the city. Porterfield told him the language would not be tolerated, as she had in the past, but he continued with his diatribe and left the meeting when he was finished speaking.

Two weeks earlier, the same individual said Black people and “anti-Americans” had no business on an advisory committee the council is creating that would provide recommendations on how the city should spend millions in coronavirus-relief funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act.

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The remarks drew swift condemnation from Councilman Damonni Farley, Porterfield and Mayor Gary McCarthy.

In December, a different individual made racist comments when the council was considering a resolution making Juneteenth an official city holiday. The remarks drew swift condemnation by community members and Porterfield, who called on council members to speak out whenever such comments are made.

The recent spate of racist comments has highlighted lingering divisions among council members that can be traced back to last year’s contentious election season, which were marred by accusations of racism and party infighting.

Some council members told The Daily Gazette last month that individuals making racist remarks were emboldened by the white council members’ failure to endorse a slate of candidates of color. The candidates of color prevailed, leading to the most racially diverse City Council in history.

Under current rules, those speaking during the public comment must refrain from “slanderous or obscene remarks, disruptive outbursts, threats, and other conduct that disrupts or interferes with the orderly conduct of the business of the meeting.” Personal attacks lobbed at city employees and elected officials are also barred.

Those who violate the rules can be called out of order by the council president.

Farley, on Monday, said the City Council has a “moral obligation” to prevent future racist comments from being made moving forward.

“It’s a pretty responsible expectation that people who are corresponding with us … not be engaging in racist and homophobic slurs,” he said. “I think that’s a pretty low expectation.”

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold. 

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Categories: -News-, Schenectady, Schenectady County

One Comment

From the same demographic we see here in the comments sections whose only agenda is to provoke and draw attention to themselves.
A sad statement of their sad lives.

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