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Staunton NAACP holds rally following councilors response to Capitol violence

Jazmine Brooks
Jazmine Brooks(WHSV)
Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 8:54 AM EST
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - Members of the Staunton NAACP and other local leaders met on the campus of Mary Baldwin University to voice their concerns around the way Staunton mayor and several members of the City Council responded to the attack on the Capitol that took place in Washington, D.C. on January 6.

“It was important for us to make a public statement and a bold stand against the words of several of our council members and our mayor because those words are not just words. It is not mere rhetoric, it is violence and that violence shows up in their sentiments and in their policies,” Jazmine Brooks with the Staunton Chapter of the NAACP explained. “Those policies impact the daily lived experiences of citizens across Staunton. Black, brown, impoverished, white, whoever it might be.”

During a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Andrea Oakes quoted Dr. Martin Luther King in her response to the Capitol Hill violence.

“Let me be very clear, I do not condone the violence at the Capitol,” Oakes said in a Zoom interview.

In her response to the Capitol Hill violence during the meeting, the mayor used the following quote from MLK, “Riots are the language of the unheard.”

“It is my belief that I was misunderstood because again, I was trying to recognize this great man and his wisdom because we need to be able to listen to one another,” Oakes added.

Oakes said she was not trying to say that Martin Luther King would condone the violence.

“I think if we were able to have a respectful conversation in which we are being respectful toward each other in trying to understand where each side is coming from we may have been able to avoid the violence,” the mayor added.

Brooks said that the time for listening has passed: “We need you to enact policies that reflect the inclusivity statement that is on your website. We need you to enact policies and include in your budget what we are asking for when we show up to say what it is that you say you’re listening to,” Brooks explained.

In a press release the Staunton NAACP said:

“We take serious issue with the fact that a mayor, elected to represent ALL of Staunton would invoke the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to publicly align herself with those whom King would vehemently condemn. The treasonous attack on our nation’s Capitol was a direct result of a free and fair election, due in critical part to Black Americans who exercised their right to be represented in the federal government. It is in no way comparable to the 1960 riots King referenced in his speech titled The Other America. The suggestion of such is an egregious affront to the community for whom King spoke.”

Tuesday’s rally also included other community organizations such as the Staunton Equity Coalition and leadership at Mary Baldwin University.

“Everyone here knows that this isn’t easy work to do and I am very, very hopeful moving forward to what Staunton will look like because we have all come together to talk about what’s important to all of us, not just a select few.” Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown with the Staunton NAACP explained.

Staunton City Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. You can read more about the NAACP by clicking here.

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