York City leaders decry racism, bigotry

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

A large contingent of York City’s elected leaders delivered a resounding rebuke of racism and bigotry during an emotional news conference at York City Hall.

With shaky voices and tears in their eyes, local leaders condemned racial hatred and celebrated the strength the city draws from its diverse population in the wake of the violent clashes between white supremacists and anti-racist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend that left one person dead and dozens injured. 

York City Mayor Kim Bracey welcomes the crowd during a press conference her office sponsored to denounce the events in Charlottesville, Va. Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

York City Mayor Kim Bracey said she organized the news conference on Thursday, Aug. 17, with state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, county Commissioner Doug Hoke and city council members Sandie Walker and Henry Nixon to show the city’s young children that their leaders stand against racism and discrimination.

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“It is incumbent on all leaders to make their voice known — that this hate and bigotry has no place in our society, no place to hide and no place of welcome here in our York,” Bracey said after alluding to President Donald Trump’s ever-changing statements about the clashes.

The white supremacist march in Charlottesville was a “tragic” and “despicable” event, and elected officials need to speak out strongly against it, Hoke said. 

On Saturday, Aug. 12, hours after a car, allegedly driven by a Nazi sympathizer, plowed into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, Trump insisted there was violence and hatred “on many sides” and did not explicitly blame white supremacists for starting the violence.

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The next day, the White House issued an updated statement, which said Trump’s earlier statement “of course … includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

But by Tuesday, Trump was again saying “there is blame on both sides.”

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Walker said York’s elected officials must lead by example and show their constituents that the city is continuing to work to overcome the city’s past, which is marked with racial tensions and clashes.

York City Director of Community Relations Edquina Washington hugs Lincoln Charter School returning ambassador Savannah Munoz, 10, after a press conference Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, sponsored by Mayor Kim Bracey to denounce the events in Charlottesville, Va. Bill Kalina photo

Though strides have been made toward racial equality since the civil rights movement, it’s clear there is still work to do, Walker said.

“Even though the ugly face of racism, of hatred, hasn't been as prevalent, now we’re starting to see that it never went away,” Walker said. “We want to make sure our young people know that this world is not a place for hate; this country is not a place for hate; this city is not a place for hate.”

At the end of the conference, Bracey, Walker, Hoke, Nixon, West York Councilman Alan Vandersloot and York City school board member Diane Glover Brown signed a resolution from the Anti-Defamation League, committing “to combat hate, extremism and bigotry.”