A blogger and members of a political action group are calling for the removal of Charlottesville's vice mayor.
Jason Kessler, along with Unity and Security for America - a group that describes its mission as "dedicated to defending Western Civilization including its history, culture and peoples while utterly dismantling Cultural Marxism" - held a news conference Thursday, February 16.
Kessler announced they had collected at least 527 signatures on a petition to oust Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy.
Last year, Kessler posted a series of captured images of Bellamy's Twitter posts to his blog. Many people have called the content of those tweets racist, sexist, or vulgar. The tweets had been posted between 2009 and 2014, before Bellamy had been elected to Charlottesville City Council.
Bellamy has since apologized for the posts. He resigned from his teaching position at Albemarle High School, as well as his position on a board with the Virginia Department of Education. Bellamy remains on City Council.
Kessler's petition claims Bellamy "misused his office, and his misuses of office has had a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office." It also argues Bellamy "misused his office by maintaining an official account on Twitter and associating his prior derogatory comments with his role as vice mayor."
"Bellamy linked his own hate speech against white people, women, and other groups from just a few short years ago to the vice mayor's official social media page. He then proceeded to attack the Robert Lee monument, which is of ethnic significance to southern white people. It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together," Kessler said.
"They show a pattern over a period of years," Teresa Lamb said of Bellamy’s tweets.
The conservative blogger has been circulating his petition for months, gathering signatures in support of recalling Bellamy from City Council.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart participated in Kessler's event. Stewart made a stop in Charlottesville Saturday, February 11, to rally support for keeping the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Lee Park.
"Wes Bellamy is the racist. Can you imagine if you had a white politician saying things about African-Americans the same things that Wes Bellamy has said against Caucasians?" Stewart said.
The removal petition cites Bellamy's support for appropriating public funds for moving the Lee statue. Kessler believes other City Council members should be recalled as well, but separately.
After the news conference wrapped up, Kessler's group of supporters marched to Charlottesville Circuit Court to deliver the petition.
“It looks valid, and there are signatures, so I accept the petition for filing, send it up to the judge. Now it goes to both sides, and it's up to them to wrangle about the merits," said Charlottesville Circuit Court Clerk Llezelle Dugger.
Merits are likely to be the subject of a lot of legal discussion. According to Virginia State Code, “The petition must be signed by a number of registered voters who reside within the jurisdiction of the officer equal to ten percent of the total number of votes cast at the last election for the office that the officer holds.”
According to the voter registrar, total of 15, 978 votes were cast in the 2015 election for Charlottesville City Council. If that is the case, Kessler’s petition would need more than three times the number of signatures from registered Charlottesville voters.
Kessler’s interpretation is, “you count the people who voted for him."
The Charlottesville Registrar's Office says that discussion will have to be settled by the court.
The other thing the clerk's office has to do is make sure each person who signed the petition is a registered voter in the city of Charlottesville.
In the meantime, supporters of Bellamy's removal are vowing to not back down. "I will not be governed by a man who holds me in contempt. I will not be governed by a man who looks down on me," said Unity and Security for America Secretary Isaac Smith.
NBC29 has reached out to Wes Bellamy, but he has not returned requests for comment on this story.
The first hearing in this case is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23.
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